One’s teaching career often goes through seasons. A young teacher year is often more like summer, filled with energy, fun ideas, and optimism. However, more experienced teachers may begin the school year recharged only to hit a wall by the end of Autumn, plunging into a winter-like rut for the remainder of a school year. Of course, there are many reasons why experienced teachers have low periods of energy and enthusiasm. We all have bad days and negative years. Many teachers have family responsibilities, but typically there is a time in every teacher’s career when they are willing and able to support students outside of the classroom.
In the Fall of 2017, I was approached to advise the high school Step Team, where I teach. The extent of my dance knowledge is from watching “Dance Moms,” and performing in my purple tutu to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” when I was five-years-old. I guess I sang more than I danced during my debut performance. In any event, my talent was in short supply.
Fortunately, the Step Team that I now can proudly say that I advise didn’t need an expert; they needed support and structure. Teachers are well equipped to give students both.
If this school year feels like the right time for you to advise a student club or activity, I encourage you to do so. Allow me to offer you five reasons to take the plunge.
1. It is authentic teaching and learning.
Are you defeated by the abundance of mandated assessments? Do you ache for content that encourages student independence, collaboration, and work ethic? Advising a particular interest club will show you student leadership and renew your commitment to helping students harness their interests. It truly does not matter which club or activity that you advise. Student leadership in the endeavor is the key. More importantly, advising will give you a sense of purpose without some ridiculous assessment tied to your efforts.
2. It will be more work, but you will enjoy it.
I will not lie. Advising is more work. You will need to learn about the culture and expectations of the group. You may even need to correct bad habits previously allowed. However, just like you establish your classroom procedures, you can manage a group. I asked many questions and needed the help of my colleagues when I began my journey with the Step Team. The team also had a reputation for drama and misbehavior, which I had to address. In other words, be prepared to pick up other people’s baggage. Soon enough, it will be your own.
3. You will be a connection point for students.
I teach in a high school that houses over 1800 people a day. For many students, having a teacher’s room where they can store their sports bags or their instruments gives them a sense of comfort. Other students enjoy a teacher who they can frequently check in with, acting as a connection point. For the Step Team members, they often say my room is their second home and that the team is like a family. (Sometimes the family bickers, but we also get over it.) It only takes one person in a sea of individuals to make or break a student’s school experience. School life does not need to be torture.
4. You will build interest and recruit more students. Your impact can be exponential.
When a club has a consistent advisor word spreads. Students encourage their friends and enrollment increases. When a student shows interest in dance and music, I often invite them to join the Step Team. Although not all join, it helps to make a conversation starter. For other students, coming to school and staying the entire day to make it to their club or activity promotes more consistent effort in their school work.
5. You will get more out of it than you can imagine.
The best part of my day is between 2:30 and 3:25. The music is loud, and the kid’s energy is in reverse proportion to my own, but there is a collective focus. Before a performance, the students exhibit nervous energy which is purposeful. My biggest surprise was when the students asked to practice more frequently, including at 8 am on Saturdays! Students’ commitment to a performance, or a cause is exhilarating. It reminds teachers of why we teach. The students offer hope and renew a teacher’s dedication.
Regardless of the activity, students need a teacher who will facilitate their interests. If your school needs such an adult, I urge you to step out of your comfort zone and allow the students to teach you.
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