After School Programs

Those of you new to the classroom may find opportunities to participate in after school activities at your school. Many schools have a need for such programs, especially in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, where a majority of the families do not have the means to join private athletic clubs or expensive philanthropic organizations. As you learn to hone your craft in the classroom, extra-curricular possibilities often present themselves. Getting involved beyond the classroom can help you connect on a deeper level with your students and their families and enrich the overall profile of your school.

Your school might require you to participate in a certain number of co-curricular roles, such as a monitor at recess, ticket taker at a football game, or chaperone at a school dance. But there may be other opportunities to offer your particular skills and interests to the school in an area that is still waiting for development. If you already have many outside responsibilities at home or in your regular work schedule, taking on an additional activity might not be the best use of your time. But if you do have the time and energy, getting involved in something extra or starting something new can raise your profile with your colleagues and provide a more meaningful learning experience for many of your students.

In my case, I started an after school drama club for middle school kids. It was my first year teaching public school and my only year teaching 6th grade. I was having trouble making the adjustment from a private high school to a public middle school, especially in the area of discipline. I went from a school where many of the students drove their own luxury cars to one where 98% of the student body were in the free and reduced cost lunch program. Many of my students did not see school as meaningful, and I began to question my effectiveness as an educator. I felt disheartened and discouraged. Then someone suggested that I organize a drama troupe, since my school had an excellent auditorium but no theater class.

I began making inquiries and gathering materials. Drama teachers in nearby schools gave me helpful suggestions and loaned me costumes and sets. The first year I organized a small cast to participate in a local Shakespeare festival. Most of the kids had never taken part in a stage production of any kind before. They did have talent and motivation, however, and even though we did not win any prizes at the contest, several of the other directors and ensembles praised our effort. I had the kids perform their scene at school and received a welcome reception from parents and students.

The next year I began to attract more kids to the program. I moved on to teaching 7th grade and soon recruited students from 8th as well. We met twice a week after school for an hour to rehearse and perform staged readings. Some of the parents volunteered to help. My principal backed the program wholeheartedly, and my overall performance in the classroom began to improve. Our little drama club began attracting the attention of the district administrators and the local press. The student body began looking forward to the snippets we offered during school assemblies. Their parents began showing up in force to our performances.

Over the next four years, we staged comedic productions of the Aladdin, Pinocchio, and Three Little Pigs stories, as well as spoofs of the murder mystery and western genres. By the time I finished my fifth and final year at the school, we had a club of several actors and technicians, including many three-year veterans, and a small budget to fund our annual productions. Parents and students who had never participated in theater before became avid fans. I worked with a team of several other teachers in supervising rehearsals and performances. The Drama Club was, for its size and scale, a smashing success.

All of this was made possible by the dedication of my students, parents, and colleagues, most of whom were new to the stage. Several of them went on to participate in larger scale programs in high school and college. A few even came back after graduation to help me as assistant directors. The seeds I planted eventually bore fruit, but I never would have known if I hadn’t made the effort to start something new. I had to take the risk to see the results.

Talk to your administrators. See what your school is doing and how you can add to that. If you have skills in supply that meet a current demand, ask yourself if you would be willing to take on that challenge. There is always room for more tutoring or another after school enrichment program. Perhaps you were brought to that school to start it. The long term benefits to yourself and your students are worth the effort.

Copyright (c) 2019 Torin Finney. All rights reserved.

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