Making A Difference: It’s Extracurricular

Track___FieldBy Matthew Olinski — I remember sitting in my physical education class when I was in high school, with the teacher taking roll call.

As he was taking attendance, he offered a simple compliment to me, “nice race last night.”

It happens that I ran the hurdles on the track team. Although he was not the track coach, he had had taken notice of one of my accomplishments in track. A smile spread across my face.

I carry that memory to this day, and use it to guide my day to day interactions with students at my school. I read the announcements to see if any of my students have birthdays that day or if they have taken part in any extracurricular activities.  Acknowledging the little things makes an enormous difference and I get a lot of smiles because someone has taken note of the extra work students put in beyond the usual school hours.

There are several times throughout the year when teachers in my school are recognized as “super fans” or fans of specific students, not just in sports like basketball or softball, but also in our school’s cabaret show performed by the choir.  It is honestly, quite the honor for a teacher to be selected.  I enjoy participating in and watching these activities, and really believe the students enjoy seeing their teachers recognize the hard work and dedication they put into their activities.

Teachers are teachers in and out of the classroom.

Putting in a few extra hours per week to observe some of your students taking part in these after school activities is a small emotional deposit to give for a large return on the investment.

It is the type of connection, in fact, that just might get those students to make the extra effort with the academics in classroom.

Despite what you may think, students also enjoy running into you outside of the classroom, even though they may not readily admit it in front of their peers at times.

I have students who smile and say “hi” to me when they see me in places like the grocery store.  I think they’re actually surprised that I have a life outside of the school.  After all, I used to joke with some students that I slept in my classroom at night, until I realized that some really did think that.

On a more serious note, be careful how you conduct yourself in certain public situations.  Summerfest is a popular summer activity, but just like the unannounced student at the grocery store, you may see one of your former students, or possibly someone who may be in your class the following fall. So, you’ll want to be on your best behavior.

Although Mr.  Hudson, the physical education teacher from my high school days  has long since retired from teaching; it is my hope that I too,  make a difference in a students’ lives by being a role model and supporting them outside of the classroom as well.  After all, making a difference in a student’s life is why we chose this profession in the first place.

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