More than 40 years after my high school graduation, I’m happy to say that I’m still in touch with many of my classmates, even though quite a few of us have long since scattered from our hometown. It’s no coincidence that many of these friends were my fellow actors and musicians from years of school shows, concerts and ensemble tours. We collaborated, rehearsed, performed, learned, thrived, and bonded for life. Perhaps even more important, together we eased the passage through the potentially challenging years of middle and high school. And we developed talents and skills that directly influenced our lives as college students, professionals, and adult citizens of the world. Likewise, my grown son and daughter, now living in different cities far from home, still enjoy many of the friendships that developed over years of band and academic team, and through these smaller activity groups discovered interests and skills that helped make them the adults they are today. Sports teams also provide lasting life lessons and bonding experiences for young students.
It has long been recongized that students, especially adolescents, do better academically and personally when they have a sense of belonging, and, clearly, arts groups and academic and sports teams can provide a comfortable “home” within a school. Just as important, it’s through the activities these homes afford that young people discover and develop common interests, a sense of shared discipline and responsibility, leadership skills, and ultimately, the joy of mutual accomplishment–all of which create a firm and fertile foundation for the life skills they’ll need as adults.
As the new school year begins, what niches do your schools offer to students–and how are students encouraged to seek them out? How do these activities align and reinforce the instructional goals of your school? Send along your experiences and ideas, and I’ll share in a future post.