Close your eyes and think about when you were in school. How many days do you really remember? Of those days, how many of them involve being taught fractions or pronouns? When I tried this experiment, I came up with about 2-dozen total, with not one being an English, Math, or French class. So what do I remember? I remember participating in the talent show in grade 10 (still have no idea where I got the courage to wear a bikini in front of my whole high school). I remember feeling cool when working at the school store in grade six. I remember all the words to the song I sang in a grade 3 choir competition.
It is commonly believed that grades are the most important part of school. Parents and teachers contribute to this belief by allowing students to participate in extra-curricular activities only when their schoolwork is complete. And completed well. But what about the kid who struggles in math but is a gifted athlete; how does she fit in? Clearly academics are not the only way a student can feel successful in school.
In teacher’s college, we learn a lot about instilling “intrinsic motivation”: the idea that kids will want to do well in school not to make their parents proud or because it will get them a gold star or because (in some cases) it will get them $10 for each A, but because they really appreciate the value of achieving success. Unfortunately, this is an almost impossible task because really, if it weren’t for us, why would kids care about grades?
So what do kids care about? They care about their friends, the soccer team, and that their cookies sold the best at the bake sale. So if we know this, why not use this information to build the confidence they need to be successful academically instead of threatening that they cannot participate unless they are successful academically. In other words, encourage our kids to get involved in school life outside of the classroom.
There are three different ways students can get involved: co-curricular, school-based extra-curricular, and community-based extracurricular activities. Co-curricular means that kids are involved in activities that enhance what they are learning in school, such as being the class rep for student council, helping to maintain the class website, and volunteering to be a library helper. Extra-curricular activities within the school include sports teams, school plays, and the eco-club. Extra-curricular activities within the community include volunteer work, swimming lessons, and scouts. Aim to choose one or two activities from each category each term; too many and you run the risk of your child getting overwhelmed and burned-out. Too few and your child may miss out on understanding that all of his abilities and interests have value and that even though she has a bit of trouble learning her times table, its ok because her time at the cross country meet was amazing