The Big Girl Chronicles: Parenting and Public Schools Performance Improvement Plan (pt 4)
You’ve gotten your child acclimated to a new school district and secured a place in the school’s parent organization. With a plan for academic success as to how you and your school can work together to provide the best educational opportunities available, you would think that things would go smoothly. But… and there’s always that word tagging along no matter what you do… now comes another task. As the academic year progresses, extracurricular activities become another role that you and your child must manage together.
The role of extracurricular activities in your child’s academic career should not be underestimated. As a whole, academics and extracurricular activities go hand in hand in shaping your child’s views about life, how to manage difficult situations, teamwork and healthy competition. Also, your child will reflect upon the experiences (s)he has had throughout his or her education when making decisions in adulthood. There’s no problem as long as your child makes the team. But, what happens when (s)he doesn’t? And as a parent, how do you help to make sure that your child’s desire to do more and participate in school clubs and organizations continues to build character and shape ideal citizens rather than destroy self esteem?
If your child’s school district is willing to do all that is reasonably possible to assist in meeting the potential of each child, they will likely have pieced together some alternatives that can expand the range of programs, clubs, organizations, competitive sports and other extracurricular activities available for students to participate. I’ve noticed that some schools have “A” and “B” teams for sports so that more children get the opportunity to play. If that’s something that your child’s school hasn’t done consider suggesting it as an option. The “A” and “B” concept can also be expanded to include cheerleading, dance and others.
Should your school district not offer an option similar to the “A” and “B” concept, there are some community organizations and churches sponsor youth sports organizations where your child is guaranteed to play for a small fee. These organizations also do a range of competitive sports in addition to cheerleading, dance and other activities comparable to those in schools. If there is no resource like this available in your area you can get with other parents who have children that didn’t make the cut and contact www.upward.org to get information about how to organize one in your area.
Because recruitment and tryouts typically happen around the same time each year, why not get with other parents with children who hope to compete and organize an informal “summer camp” with someone who can help them practice and learn the basics? The added confidence and experience could be just the edge needed to produce a better outcome for the next time.
Consider alternatives like Boy/Girl Scouts to satisfy your child’s need to be included in activities outside of school. It’s considerably less expensive than Youth Sports Organizations that are managed by community organizations and churches. And when lead properly they provide valuable character and skill-building opportunities that will help shape ideal citizens.
Honestly, there is only so much that school can do. As much as your child’s school would like to take every child under their wing, when it comes to extracurricular activities and competitive sports the school wants to be represented well by the best there is. Unfortunately, that might leave your child a spectator rather than a participant. However, like most parents you’re likely not willing to accept that. I’ve spoken with parents who have expressed disappointment at how schools manage recruitment and tryouts of extracurricular activities to the point that the parent withdraws their participation from all school organizations. Although I empathize with their frustration, I also realize that trying to effect change from the outside looking in is limiting. If there is more that can be done to encourage schools to be more inclusive of those students who continuously get sidelined, you’re going to have to opt for fight rather than flight.