Decorations, cheer and good vibes bring pods to life

Taylor Murray | The Chronicle

Between holiday decorations, end-of-year parties, and weekly dance sessions, the halls of MHS have never been more welcoming.

Many teachers within Mason High School (MHS) pods use different strategies to spread joy and enhance the school environment. MHS pods are groupings of classrooms labeled by numbers and letters to represent their floor and location in the building.

Pod C3 has music blasting from its speaker every Friday – a ritual started to create a more relaxing environment for students. Psychology and AP Psychology teacher Angie Johnston said that she has always wanted to play music over the intercoms between bells, but with no luck from the front office, her pod decided to take matters into their own hands. The teachers of C3 now play peppy tunes for Friday football games, holiday music in December and overall happy, popular songs whenever they can.

“I think [students] enjoy seeing us in the hallway, and if we are ever out and the music is playing, we can sing, dance [and] have fun,” Johnston said. “I feel like it makes us more human to them [and] builds a relationship.”

When the music is playing and the C3 teachers are out chatting with students, Johnston said she has noticed a difference in morale. She said that having the speaker playing is a fun way to break the monotony of a typical school day for many students. 

“[C3] is a friendly place [and] we love to connect with kids,” Johnston said. “Those relationships are a number one priority for us up here, and I hope that [students] get a sense of that [so] they can know that this is a safe place to go.”

Music is not the only way to spread cheer and create a fun environment at MHS. Pre-calculus teacher Bonnie White and her colleagues in Z2 spend all year looking forward to Halloween so they can dress up, play games with their students, and embrace their inner child for a day. White said that decking the halls for Halloween is a time-honored pod tradition, so she and the other Z2 teachers do their best to set aside the day for students to have fun.

“We’re getting towards the point where we hope that [Halloween] is just going to be a day where we can have our kids help us decorate and have fun,” White said. “We get out together, [dress up] and have moments for [students] to slow down since they typically don’t get [many] opportunities to just be a kid.”

This Halloween, the Z2 teachers dressed their pod hallways as the Rainbow Road from Nintendo’s Super Mario Kart. The teachers also coordinated costumes so everyone dressed up as a different character from the video game and they took turns racing down their makeshift Rainbow Road on scooters in between bells. White said that the pod teachers hope this gives students a chance to relax and have fun in school. 

“Mason can be very grade-focused and kids are stressed about different things,” White said. “I think it brings them some joy to see [us] racing on scooters and having a fun time. It’s a way to connect with their teachers in a different way.” 

Similar to Z2 and C3, pod B3 also strives to create a student-friendly environment. Principles of Biomedical Sciences (PBS) and Human Body Systems (HBS) teacher Karen McDonough, along with her fellow teachers in B3, enjoys decorating her pod for the holidays. She said that students often give positive feedback about funny signs on doors and lights out in the hall.

“The pod is really good about decorating,” McDonough said. “On my door, I even have a little Bio Med thing with Barbie doll clothes and [students] get a kick out of it when they come in. I think it just makes [the pod] inviting and makes them want to be there.”

Jackson Kehl, an MHS senior, said that they have the pods ranked in their head and C3, B3 and Z2 are among their favorites. They said that simple things like posters on doors and teachers being out in the hall makes a huge difference in their day.

“When the teachers are out talking, it feels very inclusive and fun,” Kehl said. “When teachers are back in their rooms, it feels very academic, but when teachers are out in the hallway socializing [with] students, it’s a fun five minutes before you go and do classwork.”

Kehl also really appreciates the music in C3 on Fridays. They said that the music cheers them and everyone around them up, even if their day is not going particularly well.

“I love how I can hear [the music] from way down the hallway,” Kehl said. “Definitely on Fridays when they play music, C3 is the number one [pod]. Walking around and hearing that music just gets you amped up for the day.”

Teachers like McDonough, Johnston, and White are taking steps towards a more welcoming and positive atmosphere at MHS. White said that she wishes for students to feel comfortable interacting with her, even if they do not have her as a teacher. 

“I would hope that they would see us and know that we’re the type of teachers they can just come up to and have a conversation with,” White said. “I hope they know that this is a safe place for everyone. I think ultimately that’s how we would want every kid [entering] our pod to feel: safe, happy and belonging.”

Photo by Taylor Murray