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Friday, September 24, 2010

When A Game Is Not Just A Game

This afternoon I watched the varsity girls soccer team earn yet another victory. They are off to a fine start, maintaining their progress and momentum, while gaining valuable experience and developing the team awareness that will propel them to more wins. I have attended every home game of our three soccer teams - mixed boys/girls modified, varsity boys, as well as the aforementioned varsity girls. Each of the teams has presented themselves with admirable character, dedicated effort, and improved play.

We have a high percentage of our student body participating in athletics and other extra-curricular activities. This degree of engagement has been lauded in earlier blogs referencing the positive correlation between extra-curricular participation and academic success in school. I would suggest that there may exist a similar correlation between the participation of staff with extra-curricular activities and the overall academic success of the school. That is, when staff willingly involve themselves in accepting the responsibilities associated with leading an activity beyond the school day, whether it's student council, junior class advisor, basketball, or any other program, they demonstrate a commitment to experiences that foster important skills and cultivate constructive character traits that often produce successful futures for our boys and girls.Furthermore, the opportunity for the adolescents to interact with school staff members outside of their normal school roles and the confines of scheduled periods, formal titles and conventional classrooms, offers an engaging learning experience on a personal level that can enhance the teacher:learner relationship through what amounts to a casual mentorship program. These interactions can provide evidence of care, compassion, dignity, tolerance, and respect.

These programs, as varied as they are in scope and form, contribute toward team building, cooperation, goal orientation, effective interpersonal communication skills, and a vivid sense of the relationship between investing commitment and generating success. These same characteristics are valued within any organizational culture. So, the adults supervising the extra-curricular activities are essentially growing and reinforcing the same skill set and expertise as the adolescents they are leading. How can that not benefit a school environment attentive to the hard skills of measuring outcomes, performance standards, frequent assessments, conscientious monitoring of progress, and  the soft skills of collaboration, initiative, creativity, and communication?

Our school needs to encourage staff members to stretch past the school day and beyond traditional roles, and recognize and respect those who already indulge in extra-curricular activities, to create a vibrant, multi-dimensional atmosphere that will move us forward in our quest to improve our academic performance.This goal is not a game, but rather a serious endeavor linked to our survival.

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