Nurturing Students Wherever They Are
March 31, 2023
Appears in April 2023: School Administrator.
Teamwork is a concept rooted in athletics and in many extracurricular experiences we make available to our students. Public education understands and values the importance of the partnership between academics, interscholastic athletics and extracurricular opportunities. Not only do these experiences benefit our students, they bring communities together, sometimes in the most difficult of times.
As school leaders, we recognize the importance of the whole child. We know that for many, the extracurricular and interscholastic experiences will be the aspect of school that gets them to the finish line. For most students, they embody what they love most and what they will remember forever.
Academically, we ask students to learn content, collaborate with peers, practice and improve over time, and demonstrate their understanding of what was learned. Most of this takes place in classrooms with limited outside, embedded experiences. Interestingly, athletics and extracurricular activities ask the same of students but outside the classroom: Learn the plays and rules, work with your teammates, improve over time and apply what you have learned in the game, competition or activity to a successful outcome.
So why are so many students more inclined to love the experiences outside of class? Could it be the opportunity to choose? The degree to which they are actively engaged? The depth of the learning? The hands-on, results-based, collaborative nature of the athletic or extracurricular activity? How can we mirror this type of experience in the classrooms of academic learning?
In Baldwin, we recognize the concept of “students as producers” as a key to learning and performance. The Leaving-to-Learn experiences (informally known as field trips) embody the same characteristics as athletics and extracurricular activities. Students experience the transfer of knowledge to the action of doing and the development of a learning community that is dependent on one another for success and the need to show mutual respect for others.
The opportunity to demonstrate teamwork, collaboration, discipline and leadership is essential to exhibiting sportsmanship and developing the concept of “we” versus “I.”
Pushing for a common goal with a group of players and coaches teaches you how to build camaraderie, communicate effectively and develop the ability to solve problems. Whether on the field, in a conference room or classroom, being a team player and being able to work with others and anticipate direction are essential to success.
All of these skills embody the characteristics necessary in and out of school, in academic programs as well as athletic and extracurricular activities. The development of the whole child ensures the physical, emotional and academic health of our students.
Some believe these extracurricular activities are an extra — not essential and in some cases, not necessary. I would argue that just as our students embody differences in learning, they also exhibit differences in interests and talents outside classroom learning.
All young people deserve the opportunity to excel and practice the skills necessary for lifelong success. Some will demonstrate it academically, customarily in a classroom. Others will thrive outside of traditional learning and, when given opportunities through athletics, extracurricular or co-curricular activities, will demonstrate the same skills and qualities needed for life success: teamwork, camaraderie, communication, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, self-confidence.
Public schools nurture the whole child through opportunities during and outside the school day through the intersection of academics, interscholastic athletics and extracurricular opportunities. In whatever form available, we should continue to create the necessary conditions that ensure personal and community pride.