After school today, I attended our faculty Christmas party before heading over to a nearby field house to watch many of our students run, jump, and throw at the second meet of the indoor track season. Since my wife and I have no kids of our own, it is easier for me than for many of my colleagues to attend after school activities such as plays and athletic events, and I try to attend as many as I can. I am partial to track meets since I have always enjoyed running, and the constant action provides for great entertainment.
The other reason I like attending after school events is that it is an opportunity to see those other sides of my students that I might not get to see in the classroom. Just a couple of hours ago, I watched a relatively shy and withdrawn student barrel her way through a hurdle race, displaying a force and intensity that I have never seen during class. The race offered her an opportunity to show me and everyone else that beneath that quiet surface, there is a fire burning. As I watched her run, my mind raced as I wondered how I could unleash that fire in class. She is a great student who does exceptionally well, but I have always sensed that there was more to this student than she let on during our discussions. The hurdle race confirmed that suspicion, and now it is up to me to find a way to make her comfortable enough to let that fire show in class as well.
That is one of the reasons why I like to watch students perform, run, dance, and play outside of the classroom. These occasions offer glimpses into their souls, and as a teacher, it provides me with a chance to get to know a student a little bit better. Also, students naturally love it when teachers support their after school activities. One of the easiest ways to strengthen the connections with your students is to support their lives outside of school. I can understand why. I can still remember when my High School PE teacher showed up for an important tennis match that I played, and I was so grateful that he took time out of his day to support me.
I know that family life and other obligations make it difficult to spend even more time with your students. And, I am also cognizant of the fact that since I do not have children, my schedule is a lot more flexible than most teachers. Still, if you can find the time just once a semester, attend an after school activity. Not only will your students love the fact that you are there, it will enable you to get to know your students even better.