The Folly of Legislated Extra-Curriculars

It’s very depressing to hear the thoughts about the teaching profession from some of my friends these days.  From a low of an imposed contract, it’s like rubbing salt into the wound to think that there is now talk about legislating extra-curricular activities.  You have to wonder just where this will all stop.

Being involved in extra-curricular activities has always been something exciting for teachers.  It’s another way to connect with students, parents, and community.  I know that I was involved with a computer programming team, senior football, school representative for collective bargaining, as well as a number of provincial activities.  I did these things because of interest and a chance to do things that just enhanced the daily teaching routine.  Never mind the never ending stream of fund raising activities!

Having said that, it was a huge imposition on my time and on my family.  Time in that two hours of practice or three hours of coaching would force marking, report card creation, and lesson preparation way late into the evening.  There would be some days when time with the kids was cut way back to a minimum when you return home after their bedtime.  My spouse worked shiftwork which put a further strain on things when you’re looking for childcare during the overlap of parenting time.  When my oldest daughter was older, fortunately she was taken under the wing of the cheerleading squad and she became a young one “in training” while dad was coaching.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that childcare isn’t free.  So, in addition to the time taken away, there was a personal financial cost to make this happen as well.  Why?  It’s just the right thing to do to help build the community within a secondary school.

And, you’d think that everyone was pulling in the same direction.  Sadly not.  Every staff has a bean counter or two who makes sure that everyone is involved by keeping score!  Then, there’s the comparison factor.  You’ll have a comparison between time and effort between coaching basketball and directing the school play.

Extra-curricular involvement isn’t just doing something past dismissal time.  There is huge commitment – family, financial, inter-personal, personal.  And yet, we do it.  You might wonder why … after all, it’s not part of the job.  But those involved know that these contributions make the experience whole.

It’s not something that’s forced upon people; it’s a real value add.

What makes it happen?  I firmly believe that teachers enjoy it, students enjoy it, and the community benefits.  It’s also the only part of the whole day that’s not included as the duties as covered by a collective agreement.

But now there’s rumblings about legislating extra-curricular activities as part of a teacher’s duties.  To that end, I would love to have someone explain how it’s going to work:

  • can you legislate more hours to a working day?  If extra-curricular activities are important, what about marking, research, lesson preparation?
  • will teachers be compensated for childcare?  care for aging parents?  heck, even letting the dog out after being in the house all day?
  • how will you weigh time spent on fundraising activities against time spent coaching wrestling against time working with the school band?  Do we use the same language for hours of community service for students?  Does this make extra-curricular just another job to punch in and out of?
  • who will do the bookkeeping to make sure that everyone meets the requirements?
  • what’s the penalty for non-compliance?

There are far more questions than the simple answer – legislate them.

The real solution lies in recognizing the donation of time doing extra-curricular activities as what it is – good will and a desire to do the best by teachers.  All that is will take in return is good will and a return to productive collective bargaining.

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9 thoughts on “The Folly of Legislated Extra-Curriculars

  1. Kevin says:

    Hi Doug, you made a series of very valid points in this article. Every year I’ll have a number of 20+ year olds come up to me and remember me from coaching or doing something in the school that I didn’t have to do but I think it made the school a better place not just for them for me. I’m not sure how you capture that using legislation.

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  2. Doug,

    There were certainly times in my life when performing extra-curriculars would have been impossible. I came to teachers college at the age of forty from the community college system. In my early years in the college system — some twenty years ago — I felt a lot of pressure to put in committee time, while I was racing from work to get my son out of daycare. Similarly, I went through that period of having both a growing son and an aging parent. By the time I was in my forties, and my son was in middle school, it was much easier to give up personal time for extra-curriculars.

    Now, approaching my mid-fifties, there are still things I can do, which I’m happy to provide. At this point, however, I no longer volunteer to take kids for several days to outdoor education centres. On top of a full instructional day, the teachers in charge responsible for the health and safety of kids around the clock. I remember going on a three-hour snowshoe trek in the morning, and by that evening I was supervising the hallways of the dorms while the kids went to the showers and packed for the trip back next morning.

    There’s only so much people can give to the job. I think it’s also important to understand that staff contribute in a variety of ways. Some are not strong on staying late to run clubs, but they drive committee work within the school.

    The current discussion implies that the really dedicated teachers are those who come extra early or stay extra late, and that’s quite narrow-minded.

    Best,
    Gord

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  3. Steve says:

    Good analysis. I’m interested in how they’ll pick which extracurricular you are forced to do. Personally, I’m a fan of arrow-catching and black-and-white films of the 1500’s, which will likely have less student involvement than the legislation implies I should be doing.

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  4. “There is huge commitment – family, financial, inter-personal, personal. And yet, we do it. You might wonder why … after all, it’s not part of the job. But those involved know that these contributions make the experience whole.

    It’s not something that’s forced upon people; it’s a real value add.

    What makes it happen? I firmly believe that teachers enjoy it, students enjoy it, and the community benefits. It’s also the only part of the whole day that’s not included as the duties as covered by a collective agreement.”

    Couldn’t agree more, Doug. For those involved, it makes the professional experience whole – giving some a feeling that without these ‘extras’ something is missing or incomplete.

    As someone whose spouse engaged heavily in extra curricular activities – with his federation, sports, plays, committees – an endless variety of contributions, we as a family understood the sacrifices and benefits of pro bono work. These gifts can’t – and shouldn’t be legislated, nor do legislators of any stripe directly feel the brunt of their loss. It is the (non) recipients of the gifts of time and talent, and those who would give, but ‘can’t’ who lose the most.

    I know there’s a lot of good will – and certainly an overwhelming will and need for productive collective bargaining.

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  5. There’s one very critical idea that you did forget, Doug (though I do love what you wrote). If extra curriculars are so important, why are they not mandated for students? If they’re so utterly critical to students’ development, why aren’t we talking about adding a commitment of 120 hours of supervised ECs to the requirements for a diploma? Basically, because the politicians know this is an add-on, a throw-away item to stir up the masses. If it was as critical as they suggest, they would have legislated its inclusion in the curriculum a long time ago – just like we did with volunteer hours.

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  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Julia. I know that you’re very close to the situation in a number of ways. There are huge things going on and it’s tearing away at the heart and soul of publically funded education.

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  7. Jim, I hope that you’re right about the throw-away bit! Having children who grew up in rural environments, the school really is more than just a place to go between 9-3 (or some permutation of that)

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