By Andrew Pillow
One of my fondest memories of grade school was hearing the afternoon announcements. Yes because they signaled the end of school. But also because they signaled the start of extracurriculars. I always enjoyed hearing our principal announce where the different clubs were meeting and what they were doing. Sometimes just hearing about them was enough to make you want to join. You could join anytime you wanted but most people usually waited till the “extracurricular fair” to pick what clubs and organizations they wanted. That’s when all the extracurricular activities had a table and a student ambassador to try and convince you to join.
I teach in a school now. There are no afternoon announcements. There are no extracurricular fairs and to be blunt there are very few extracurriculars period. Even though I teach in a decidedly different school than I went to, that still seems wrong.
Children in urban schools deserve these types of experiences too. Children in urban environments need these types of experiences in general. Probably even more so than their suburban counterparts who are more likely to have them. And right now inner city schools are providing significantly less of these experiences than their more affluent neighbors.
I don’t think anybody disputes the lack of extracurriculars in the inner city. However, most people fall back on the built-in excuse that pretty much every urban school has: Money. “There is no money for this. There is no money for that.” We have heard that in relation to pretty much every criticism levied in regard to urban schools. While nobody denies money is an obstacle for urban schools, it does not suffice as a complete excuse not to offer any enrichment opportunities for students.
There are tons of clubs that don’t require anything other than an adult volunteer to run.
If your school has computers… you have the necessary components for a coding club.
How much does it cost to buy a chest set to establish a chess club?
Is there a stage in your school? Then your school can provide a drama club.
All of those things could eventually cost money depending on how far students take their new found skills and talents however, it doesn’t really cost anything to expose them to those fields.
Another source of extracurricular programming that people often overlook is community partners. There are all kinds of organizations and businesses that may be interested in hosting a club at your school. Actually, some of them receive grants that specifically require that they do.
There are schools that have started gardening and robotics clubs using entirely outside money and resources simply because they asked.
All of this is not to demonize urban schools that haven’t figured out a way to overcome the obstacles associated with extracurricular activities. However, it is to say that most schools can and should do more than they are doing, and their students need them to.