Why Teachers Should Value Extracurricular Activities
Teaching is, well, more than teaching. That came to mind last week as I was anticipating writing about the importance of getting involved in extracurricular activities in school.
I was listening to a podcast about student discipline when the podcaster diverged for a moment to explain what kind of people become teachers. “Schools attract believers,” she said. That simple sentence illustrates the appeal of extracurricular activities (ECAs): They strengthen our belief in the value of what we do.
Here’s a quick look at the best reasons to participate in extracurricular activities.
Getting creative about helping children
Most teachers think of extracurricular activities as formal sports and activities that schools designate as official duties for extra salary. While that may be true, I encourage you to think of ECAs as informal activities you can bring to your school with administrative permission.
As a younger teacher (yet to have a wife and children), I returned to the inner-city high school where I worked to open up the gym on Friday nights for our students. Some nights we’d have over 200 young men with us until midnight. While I didn’t receive pay for my time, I was more than happy to exchange my time knowing that the students were safe in our school.
Conveying enthusiasm for the profession
All new teachers, at least initially, live under microscopes. Lesson plan quality, work ethic, professional interactions and classroom instruction are all watched closely and considered indicators of overall performance.
Volunteering for an activity or creating one on your own sends a message to the school administration that you want to spend time working with children. This type of enthusiasm goes a long way in earning the respect of your colleagues and administrators.
Building connections to the classroom
Taking part in extracurricular activities helps to develop connections that translate well to the classroom experience. Being a coach or advisor enables you to show a side of yourself to your students that they wouldn’t see inside the classroom setting.
Being able to work with you when your guard is down a bit and your interactions aren’t so formal is guaranteed to translate well into your work. I can remember many young men who, after getting to know me as a coach, brought a better and more positive experience to the classroom.
Many people complain that the increased focus on academics through the Common Core State Standards has robbed the fun from the classroom. Not to come across as too cranky of an administrator, I don’t necessarily list fun as a core classroom expectation, but I do know that being involved in extracurricular activities does allow both the teacher and the students to have fun, whatever the activity may be. Being a coach or an advisor enables you to laugh a bit more, show enthusiasm away from your classroom and revel in the dry wit that many children like to show from time to time.
Reaching the hesitant child
I’ve written before of our special obligation to reach out to the child who may struggle in the school setting. Very often the only place that a hesitant child finds any comfort or enjoyment in school is outside the formal classroom setting.
Along with that, a child may use the activity to develop academic and life skills that translate to their future careers. Many successful adults speak of their out-of-class activities as being the most important experiences in their development.
Pursuing personal interests
Perhaps you have a hobby that you want to share with your students? If so, bring in a starter version of whatever it may be and encourage your children to take part.
One of the most popular clubs in our high school is the sewing club. Through her personal interest in creation and design, a very popular teacher has built an informal group of children into an active and involved group that produces beautiful blankets for ill children to have while in the hospital.