Editor's Note: This is a guest post from freelance writer, Alvina Lopez.
As schools continue to cut their budget, extracurricular activities and after-school groups are threatened. Sadly, the nation's turbulent economic atmosphere has led to significant cuts in important organizations, teams and activities that take place outside of the classroom. In the Lee Summit school district administrators have implemented "middle and high school activity fees for sports, music and other activities, a 20% cut to extra-duty salaries and operating expenses impacting extracurricular activities, and increases to the community-use fees for district facilities and grounds." While these cuts have been necessary for budgeting needs, the consequences may be dire.
Much of the research done concerning extracurricular activities and their influence on a student's success in the classroom suggests that these activities have a positive influence on grades and test scores. Cutting extracurricular activities for the school budget may be putting schools, administrators, educators and students at a further disadvantage. Moreover, extracurricular activities give educators an opportunity to influence a student's life in a way that is valuable beyond the classroom because extracurricular activities help students stay focused on their school work and aspire for lofty goals. Extracurricular activities also help build a mentoring relationship between students and teachers that could be paramount in a young person's life.
Creating a strong mentoring relationship with a student in a classroom setting can be a challenge. With overworked teachers and overfilled classrooms, building strong relationships beyond homework, class projects and detention slips can be a difficult feat for an educator. Teachers who are also involved in after-school sports or organizations can get to know their students in a different atmosphere. One of the most important things a young student can gain from his or her education is the bond made with responsible and caring adults. The mentoring relationship derived from afterschool involvement is important for students because part of primary education is learning to interact with adults. Extracurricular activities provide a way for students to interact with responsible and caring adults in a less traditional environment. Adult interaction is immensely important to their maturation. Few people consider the role the student-teacher relationship plays in fostering youth who are capable of and comfortable with adult interaction and adult conversation.
Extracurricular programs and teacher mentors offer academic and personal benefits that few other activities and relationships can. Providing students with a place to relieve stress, avoid trouble and learn new things, afterschool activities are essential to building balanced and intelligent pupils. With Missouri school districts cutting funding to after-school programs and groups, there may be reason to worry that our students are missing out on important learning opportunities with important people: their teachers.
Alvina Lopez is a freelance writer and blog junkie. You can contact her via email at alvina.lopez (at) gmail.com.