I feel like I live, breathe and sleep thinking about school. I have certainly not had a dream about anything else since I started my training in 2011. This is the reality for the majority of my NQT colleagues and I am assured that it does not play a less significant part of a teacher’s waking life as they progress through their careers. Fantastic.
So, the question is: why, after spending the majority of the weekend planning, most nights marking and all day teaching/ dealing with admin/ children, do teachers stay after school, unpaid and run extra-curricular activities? The answer is, because it is so valuable to a rounded, balanced education.
Ask any adult about their school experience and they will not mention the astounding formative assessment that they received, or the concrete knowledge of their target levels and what steps they needed to take to make Outstanding progress. No, they will comment on one of two things: the times that they got in trouble and the times that they spent having fun in clubs, plays, trips and sporting events. These are what make school life a life and not an existence – they make school relevant and give many students a reason to be there.
I have just spent fifteen hours in school so I could pull the curtains on the school play. This was clearly a pivotal role and despite this it was just a fraction of the days, weeks and now months that the other staff involved with the production have spent worrying about, organising and creating such an amazing show. It was spectacular last night and spectacular tonight. Tomorrow’s last show will undoubtedly be even better. The young people acting on stage have a fantastic gift that has been nurtured and developed by the staff who were involved in this play in their own time and for one reason: it benefits those young people. Similarly, the PE staff have coached excellent teams to victory in county competitions which leads to a positive school culture and gives other students pride in the school that they attend.
I am currently organising a trip to the Ypres and Somme area for Year 9. Ostensibly it is to provide the students with contextual knowledge to support their GCSE Controlled Assessments in both History and English. I am sure that they will learn a lot yet in a few years time I do not think that they will look back at this trip and remember the quality learning that took place. They will remember the trip as a new experience, to a new place with new people and this in itself is a valuable thing for them to have learnt. My housemate is going one step further and organising a volunteering trip, along with £50,000 of fundraising, to Africa for Year 10 and 11 students. She is clearly mental and it is taking over her entire life yet the impact that it will have on those young people who were lucky enough to be selected (through rigorous interviews which, again, took hours) is immeasurable. This is a once in a lifetime experience that will have been created, principally by her, for those children and will be with them for their whole life.
Is it worth it for teachers to do all of this? Yes. A school without extra-curriculars, for me, does not provide a balanced, meaningful education. Extra-curriculars make a school. I need to remember this as I sign up to help out with something else…