As parents and educators, finding ways to ensure that every child finds a "home" in their school is paramount.
Many of our kids have defined paths to where they are going to learn about teamwork, discipline, commitment, and leadership. As athletes begin their journey in elementary and middle school, when the time comes to join a team in high school the answer and the path is simple. “Hey mom, I want to play basketball in high school.” The parent says, “That’s great, let’s look for information about try-outs.” If the kid makes the team, they have a built in family of friends and a place to learn about important life skills that become the building blocks of their adult life.
But what about all of the kids that do not have this same place? What are we doing for them?
In my job as a high school band director, I make the statement to incoming students and parents, “You don’t have to do band in high school but you have to do something.” For most of my “clientele,” they lack the physical skills to make the football, lacrosse, softball, or basketball teams. But these same kids shouldn’t be missing out on having a place where they can learn about teamwork, discipline, commitment, and leadership.
As parents and educators, we need to help our children find their place in high school. This is not something that we should leave to chance. The life that is in front of our youth gets narrower and narrower in regards to opportunities to learn about the life skills they will need in the workforce. By being on a team, in a performing ensemble, or other team related high school experiences, our kids will learn about success and failure. Our kids will learn about making friends and being a valued member of an organization. These teams, bands, and clubs will be an avenue to make long lasting friendships through all of the tough practices, demanding workouts, games and performances.
But what about the kids who do not find these “homes?”
This is what scares me the most as an educator.
Every child needs a place that they can learn more than just their academic studies. The rigor of our schools' curriculums is not enough to set up our youth for future success. To imagine sending off the Valedictorian of any school, who has never been a part of team, who has never been in a band that requires every member to play at a high level, or to have never been asked to take the “last shot,” is extremely concerning for this “high achieving” individual.
We need to ask every student, “Where are you going to leave your mark in high school?”
Administrators, teachers, coaches, and parents need to be actively helping our youth find their “home” in each and every school. It is in these places that they will receive the other half of their education. This is where they will learn how to care about something greater than themselves. This is where they will learn how to become dependable to others and how to follow through with their commitments. This, along with their strong academics, will become the building blocks that will enable them to tackle the challenges that face them throughout adulthood.
By having a place where a student can learn throughout their time in high school, we will know the answer to the question: “Where did you leave your mark in high school?”