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The Experiences of a Flying Teacher from the Clouds of Education - Chapter 8

Extra-curricular activities: Immerse yourself

Finding yourself knee deep in marking essay papers, exercise books and general school work is something quite common in the heart of London’s educational institutions. It’s part of the “deal” when it comes to responsibilities and a teacher’s solemn duty. Albeit time consuming and tedious at times, it naturally helps a great deal in assisting you with keeping track of student performance and progress throughout the school year. You sigh at the end of the day as you trudge home with bags filled with papers upon papers, your trusty red pen – in your pocket – anxious to comment, correct and criticize. Amid all that hectic progression and time-consumption, I often found myself asking: Why not enjoy yourself at school sometimes?

There are so many opportunities, too numerous to mention in a single chapter. However, I can only do my best to direct you to some of the more obvious activities an often over-burdened teacher can get involved with. First and foremost, however, you must always make the effort to find out exactly what kind of extra-curricular activities exist in your school.

Naturally, first there are the ever-present student related activities. These offer up a more supervisory role, but still, this can be relaxing, stimulating and exciting on so many levels. For example, coaching one of the numerous sports teams that your school has to offer is something that can be very rewarding on a personal and professional level. Not only are you helping young student athletes develop their particular talents and skills, but you are giving them an opportunity to enjoy playing the sports they love and at a competitive level. Sometimes there are not enough coaches to run an individual sports team, and the students suffer as a result. Why not jump in and volunteer your experiences and knowledge? One other gain is that you get to live your dream of being a top class “manager” with your very own team, coaches, lineups and opportunities to lead your school to championship glory every year!  You will deny this, of course, but within every teacher who is a sports fan there is a little Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho waiting to emerge at the slightest whim. At the end of the day, it is all in good fun. So, why not?

Besides the fun challenge of coaching a school football or basketball team, there are also the student related activities that revolve more around intellect and strategy. These can range from debate and science gatherings to chess and war game clubs. Yes, they do exist! And if they don’t, why not suggest it at the next departmental meeting?
“That’s all good and well but who will supervise this club of yours and stay after school with the students?” Why, you of course! You can help inspire a new generation of students to appreciate some of the more fascinating and interesting aspects of education – expanding their minds and helping them grow academically and personally. Best of all, they will come to these extra-curricular activities of their own free will because they want to be there participating. Again, I say why not?

School trips also offer up a plethora of opportunities for you to participate and help out. Media Studies can’t find a third teacher to accompany the Year 12 film students to their Hollywood/Universal Studios school trip to Los Angeles in February, you say? I have just the person. One of the senior teachers just pulled out of the annual ski trip to Austria because of a sudden family gathering during half-term break? May I suggest a solution, if you please?

Last but not least, I give you the teacher-related extra-curricular activities. These I savour the most. They are teacher organized and only the staff can participate. That is correct; you get to compete against your dear colleagues in a friendly gathering of good, old-fashioned fun. Whether it is five aside football (soccer) or badminton, the obvious benefit is that you get to have some form of exercise after school on a weekly basis. Improving inter-teacher relations, and having fun while doing it, is quite the bonus as well. Get your trainers and gear ready!

I inevitably come to the final point of this brief but succinct chapter: Why? Why should we spend more time at school, come home ever so late to make dinner and complete any marking? Why give more of our free time to students who at times don’t seem grateful about anything? Because we can. I believe we have a responsibility to reach out to students and offer them opportunities to further their abilities, to learn something new and to express themselves. Teaching and helping to develop and mature young minds does not stop and start at the sound of the school bell.

Regrettably, I have found that a lot of teachers just simply cannot be bothered to make the leap. Some have families; others extra-curricular activities and private lives outside of school. And that’s fine. But for those teachers out there – particularly the new ones starting out – who want to get more involved with the spirit of the schools they teach in, go for it. There are so many wonderful opportunities to immerse oneself in individual schools, create bonds with teachers and students alike and, quite frankly, enjoy yourself for once. And don’t think of it solely as career progression or “looking good on a CV”. As I like to say many times, teaching is not a “job”. It goes beyond that. There is a certain ethos, sense of community within a school, especially after you have been there for many years. I remember seeing it in high school as a student and I see it today as a teacher. Make the most of it.


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