What makes a high school tick? After I got home from taking the FFA Food Science Team to their district contest I am reflecting on this question. What makes a high school tick?
There are so many variables: student leadership, supportive community, an energized staff, administration that connects with staff and students, success in the classroom and extra-curricular activities, to name a few.
At my school, I truly feel we qualify in a majority of those categories. As the FFA advisor, I feel I can address the effectiveness of extracurricular activities.
This is our list of extra-curricular activities and the people who are the designated advisor or head coach:
After looking at the list again, you can see that all but one of these people already have full time jobs on top of the advisor or coaching role. Why do we do it? This is what (in part) makes our high school tick.
I spoke with one advisor who easily puts in more hours than what his stipend covers. It was rewarding and refreshing to hear his take on why he puts the energy in. To oversimplify our conversation, he wants to provide as many opportunities for the kids as he can. Many will never travel out of the county, and with the school activities they can take a trip of a life-time with their peers. Regardless of how they placed in any contest, they created experiences and memories that they will have forever, and may never have had without the opportunities created by the school activities.
After talking with this advisor my motive seems a little selfish. I have worked really hard to build an FFA program that I am proud of. We currently have 45 members in the chapter. That is nearly half the school, and most years we do have half the student body involved. When my stipend is exhausted or when my stipend is threatened by budget cuts, I could easily say I will just cut activities, as a result decreasing my hours to match. But, then I would be at odds with my own personality and my drive to do what is best for the students. In Washington, the clubs such as FFA and FCCLA, are called Career and Technical Student Organization’s (CTSO’s). Biased or not, CTSO’s are critical to the success of a students’ success during and after high school. That’s why I commit to FFA .
The same sentiment was reflected as one teacher told me she wants students to see how the classroom content is connected to their daily lives. She also enjoys seeing their faces when they experience success, and knows how important it is to be there for support when they do not. She invests time away from her family and gives it to her students for the greater good of her community.
A former colleague of mine told me that she was approached by the students who wanted to participate in FFA activities. She chose to become involved because she feels students should be exposed to different activities. She also took the opportunity as a challenge to try something new in her career and keep things interesting.
After consulting my students, I found that 72/77 students are involved in at least one activity, and a majority of the students are involved in 3+. Why do the students do it?
I polled my classes and asked them why they are involved (or not involved) in any of the extra-curricular activities offered at our school. Here are some responses with the most frequent answers at the top:
This was an interesting process. I enjoyed listening to them. When the few mentioned resumes, and looking good for colleges, you could see the others could not believe they actually admitted that. Sports was a heavy hitter. The one response I was waiting for and did not get until the end of the day was “My mom makes me.” There were a few curve balls such as “it distracts me.” That comment speaks volumes about home life.
I kept the five that did not participate and made sure they knew I was not in any way judging them. They can choose to do anything they want, and I explained that I was writing a blog about participation, and this was purely a survey. Their responses to why they did not participate did not surprise me too much. I did not know the one student had health problems that kept him from sports. He is in FFA, so this is not an entirely accurate classification. I am happy to see that they did not say we did not have anything to offer them, or they did not like what was offered.
I truly do feel that extra-curricular activities round out an education. They provide benefits such as social interaction, time management, and being held accountable. As an FFA advisor I am teaching kids how to grow into adults. How to interact around adults, be respectful, and hold a conversation face to face. They learn how to place an order at a restaurant, and what is an appropriate tip for the waitress. This fall we traveled to Chicago, then on Indianapolis. They paid their first highway toll, some flew for the first time, and had to explain to strangers what the National FFA Organization is and why they are all dressed in the same outfit.