Last month, as part of the ongoing dispute with the provincial government, the BC Teachers Federation withdrew its support for all extra-curricular events. This month concerned administrators in SD 60 found ways to sustain several of these events including the district badminton tournament and elementary track and field day. It would have been very easy for everyone to simply throw up their hands and let extra curriculars slide until the labour issues are settled, but this did not happen. The reason? Extra curricular events are just too valuable to let them go.
Research indicates that participation in extra curricular events is one of the most important factors that helps students to engage with their school, and subsequently their learning. In the United States, the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) has clearly established positive links between student participation in extra curriculars and improved classroom performance and behavior. Laurence Steinberg, author of You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10–25, suggests that kids who are involved in clubs and sports spend an extra couple of hours a week with an adult, usually a role model like a drama director or a football coach. Typically students build positive relationships with their adult mentors, and don’t want to disappoint them. Often this relationship can be used to advantage in the classroom. Extracurriculars make school more palatable for many students who may otherwise find it bleak or unsatisfying. Grades improve not because of what kids are learning in their extra curricular event, but because the extra curricular is making them enjoy school more. They show up more often, find a circle of like-minded friends, and become more engaged at school.
Even without the benefit of knowing the research many veteran SD 60 principals intuitively recognize the value of strong extra curricular programming. Despite absorbing additional duties and responsibilities in this difficult time, these principals are making the time for extra curriculars because they know that the time invested outside the regular day pays dividends inside the classroom. These principals deserve thanks and appreciation for their willingness to go the extra mile when it would be so easy, even reasonable for them to stop.
It is also very encouraging that when this year's elementary track meet was in danger of being cancelled, many of the district's younger administrators stepped forward to volunteer. It has been suggested that a commitment to extra curricular events is a generational quality that might be lost as more experienced principals retire. The willingness of younger administrators to get involved is a positive sign.
In less contentious times there are also many dedicated teachers who recognize the value of extra curricular involvement. It is little wonder that the decision to withdraw from extra curriculars was agonizingly difficult for the BCTF, and many of its members. Once labour issues are resolved it is to be hoped that these folks will return to their voluntary roles as coaches and mentors.
Our elementary district track meet is set for early June. On that day I know where I'll be. Barring mishap,misadventure or re-assignment, I'll be near the starting line in my capacity as official starter. Hopefully, district staff will all be out in force supporting those who support students. Working together we make things better for everyone. Having a little fun outside of the classroom in order to enhance the learning within it, is always time well invested.