On April 11th, the carpeted hallways of Georgetown Day School (GDS) were unusually still for a Wednesday afternoon. Across town, nearly 500 GDS students and faculty crowded Section 110 at Nationals Park and witnessed the Washington Nationals lose their final game in a series against the Atlanta Braves. Earlier that morning, the hundreds of high schoolers had donned baseball caps and t-shirts sporting the Nationals logo and patiently waited to board busses to begin the nearly annual Hopper Holiday. This tradition surprises everyone, except the administration, becoming a source of excitement for some while an added stress for others.
The origins of Hopper Holiday date back to when Russell Shaw first came to GDS as Head of School in 2009. Several of the high school’s administrators proposed the idea as a way of gathering as a community and reducing the stress levels of students. While there is not specific criteria or a set schedule that determines which years Hopper Holiday occurs, the special event tends to take place after winters where GDS does not use the maximum amount of allotted snow days.
This past winter proved to be one of those years after GDS canceled school on only one occasion. While discussing possible activities for this year’s Hopper Holiday, High School Dean of Students, Bobby Asher, proposed taking the entire student body off campus to a Nationals game, a sharp contrast to previous years when the festivities have always remained in Tenleytown. After finding a date with the least amount of conflicts and acquiring tickets, Shaw waited to break the news until late afternoon the day before.
Although the surprise aspect of Hopper Holiday is a major component of the event, it can disrupt classes and often becomes a challenge to teachers who have carefully crafted their schedules well in advance. English teacher Khalid Bashir explained, “If I have one section of a grade’s class more than the other, it makes it uneven and causes me to have to make adjustments. We can’t plan ahead for what we don’t know is happening.” Spanish teacher Laraine House echoed Bashir’s concerns, “This year seventh period got slammed a number of times, and it has greatly impacted students’ ability to stay on top of material.”
Despite their apprehensions over the negative impact Hopper Holiday can have on a curriculum, both teachers recognized the importance of GDS being able to gather as a community and the opportunity for students and faculty to take a break from their typical routine. “Ultimately, knowing that I teach because I care about the students, it’s important that I make that sacrifice so students can recognize that self-care is very important,” noted Bashir. Quinn Killy, Dean of Student Life, acknowledged, “Part of being an educator is that you have to be a little bit flexible. That’s not always easy.”
Over the years, Hopper Holiday has been cemented as a popular tradition at the GDS High School. When the warm weather begins and spring arrives, students start to eagerly anticipate this interruption of their normal schedule but understand the challenges it can pose. House suggested one way to address these issues. “We could have more heads up and have classes that are supposed to meet that day still meet up, even if only for 30 minutes, and then afternoon fun activities with a variety of things that people would like to do.” In the meantime, whether any adjustments will be made for future years remains to be seen.
By Mica Maltzman’20