Over the last several weeks, I have seen social media posts made by students that have really saddened me. These posts have expressed the regret and disallusionment they feel at attending their current school. These students have been told by others that they‘ve wasted their time and talents by staying at a particular school. And in a way- I agree.
I love the school at which I teach. The students are amazingly talented. They’ve persevered through things that would have broken even the strongest of spirits. And yet they are looked down on as being the lowest of the low.
The issue that my students seem to have is that there are no opportunities to display their talents unless they are athletes. There’s basketball, football, volleyball, softball, baseball, track, and cross country. But there are no clubs.
When I was in high school, there were two things I always looked forward to- pep rallies and club days. I enjoyed pep rallies because, as a cheerleader, I’d get to perform and encourage others to cheer for the home team. School spirit was a big deal for us.
Club days were full of hustle and bustle and I was in the mix of it all! There was so much to choose from. I was in Amistad, which was a black history and cultural studies club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Thespian Club, and many others. We did work around the school. We were active in the community. And the thing that made me most proud was that we were able to foster relationships with peers that we may not have otherwise connected with outside of our close knit circle of friends. To this day, some of my fondest high school memories are centered around the activities we performed in those clubs.
But I realize that the students I teach won’t have those same opportunities. The more I sit and reflect over the last several years of my career, I realize my students haven’t been given the chance participate in their community the way I did. If they don’t play sports, they don’t get the chance to participate in anything. There are no clubs. I’ve never seen such in my life. High school should be a time to foster relationships and have experiences and learn new things. Student growth has been made stagnate due to this “lack of.” And it’s frustrating.
Not only that, my kids are now writing scholarship essays that are asking them about their leadership experiences and extracurricular activities and they have none. We have done these kids a disservice.
How can we include more activities for the students to get involved in? How can we prove to our colleagues, administrators, and stakeholders that clubs and organizations help foster skills that are vital to their survival in the workforce and beyond? Yes, academic instruction is important. But so are communal and conversational skills. So is problem solving. So is working together. So is compromising and learning to effectively debate. These are things I was able to learn due to my participation in clubs and other activities. So why aren’t my students offered the same opportunities and experiences?
If we include activities such as these, it will give the students something to look forward to. Not everyone likes school. I know I didn’t. But I looked forward to times of fellowship with my peers that had nothing to do with the classes I was taking. I think my kids would feel the same way if presented with the opportunities. And I think we would reap some benefits as well.
These activities could boost student morale, increase attendance, decrease the need for disciplinary action, and improve the culture and climate of the school by boosting school spirit.
I’m so saddened that my kids will not get to have the same high school experiences that I had. But I do hope this will change for future generations of students in the area.