Finding Your Fit With Outside Class Activities
First, let me wish good luck to my fellow educators and school support staff who are heading back to work this fall. I hope you had a relaxing and restful summer and are excited to begin a new year of teaching and learning with your students.
I also want to add a special good-luck greeting to new teachers. Take it from me, there’s nothing so terrifying and exciting as becoming a teacher. One thing I learned early on is that there’s a lot more to being an effective and well-remembered teacher than just offering instruction to children.
Schools, after all, are communities. And the best way to build a vibrant, rich community for your children is for you to throw yourself (and yes, I mean “throw”) into the life of that community. That means getting involved in outside-the-classroom activities like clubs, school plays, sports and much more.
You can’t do them all, of course; the key is to find activities best suited to your interests and character. Here are my suggestions for taking a lead role in these activities:
Start with your school administration
Soon after you are hired, formally ask your school administration to consider you for extra-duty positions. This can include coaching a sport, supervising a school club, leading after-school study halls or chaperoning dances.
Schools often have multiple opportunities for staff members to get involved, and these offer a great way to kick off your time in the school. Depending upon the technical nature of the activity, don’t be worried if your skill level isn’t extremely high. Aside from very complex sports activities, you’ll be more than able to “catch up” on your own.
Start your own
This one is a bit tricky as your local teacher association may have rules in place for outside activities, but you should always consider starting your own informal after-school activity. This could include supervising students who may want to play in the gym after school or perhaps opening up the school computer lab to offer an extra-help technology section. If you have a hobby you want to share, you may want to invite children to after-school gatherings to learn more about it.
If your activity starts to grow formalized or very popular, it’s essential to check with your school administration. School leaders love it when teachers show initiative, and it’s always best to keep your supervisors in the loop.
Look for school-related activities
If your school has no available opportunities, start looking outside. Many teachers get involved in local after-school community programs to make connections with their students. I know of one school whose parent-teacher organization forms an independent enrichment program and encourages teachers to submit proposals for course topics.
Teachers have led cooking classes, fitness groups and chess clubs. This is a great way to stay involved with the school, work with the children and perhaps create a little added income, which if you’re like most teachers you’ll end up spending on your classroom supplies anyway.
New teachers do not enjoy the many job protections that veteran staff members have earned, which is why there is a certain personal benefit to getting involved in the life of your school. It sends the message to your administrators that you have initiative and a strong work ethic, and that you’re interested in the overall success of your students and the school. Leading community activities is a great way to make yourself as “indispensable” as possible, which strengthens your ability to navigate these tricky times in education.
An educator for two decades, Brian P. Gatens is superintendent/principal at Norwood Public School in Norwood, New Jersey. Gatens has worked at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. He has been a classroom teacher, vice principal, principal and now superintendent/principal.