Growing up, I didn’t have a role model to guide me in identifying what it was to excel as a student until I was involved in after-school activities and had a coach lead me on the path to grow—both academically and personally. My coach guided me, cared, and held me accountable. He showed me that through hard work, I could achieve my goals. My involvement in activities was a springboard to believing in myself and my abilities. In the end, it helped me earn a scholarship that provided me with an opportunity to further my education and become a mentor for others.
One of my passions as an educator is encouraging student involvement in activities—everything from band and debate to football, basketball, and baseball. I want my students to enjoy their school experience. I want my kids to have a mentor and feel as if they belong. Isn’t that what we all want—to belong? The key is to cultivate student involvement. What follows are some strategies that can help.
Match the Right Mentor to the Right Activity
By encouraging students to be committed and fulfil the goals they set, a mentor or coach can change the life of a student, guiding them in the right direction to succeed both in and out of the classroom. But mentors and coaches can have a positive or negative effect. That’s why it’s so important for school leadership to screen and link the right mentor to the right activity.
Encouraging participation in school activities starts with making connections with students. Making connections is about building relationships. When we build a relationship with a student, we find something they are passionate about in their lives. We take this passion and build upon it, knowing that this will strengthen the relationship between the student and mentor or coach. This is the baseline for actively engaging a student in an activity.
Joining an activity is just the first part. Once the student is engaged in the activity, it’s vital to keep them active and involved. This is where the mentor or coach will evaluate their skill set and how it matches up with the activity to determine how best to provide support. Once the student believes in their skills and feels confident, the activity becomes more attainable and other involvement can take place.
As an educator, I’m in contact with students every day—caring about their grades and interests, attending their activities, letting them know that I am available when they need a helping hand, and showing them that I care. Building relationships is the key in students’ academic and personal growth.
As educators and leaders within our community, it is vital to make building relationships and encouraging involvement within our schools a priority. It’s also the key to connecting our kids with that person—a coach or mentor—who can make a lasting impression in their lives and transform them into future leaders.
We have a saying in our school: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Let’s begin with caring.
By building relationships with students and encouraging their involvement in school activities, we build more well-rounded students. This, in turn, builds future leaders who can assist in the growth of others.
Heath McInerney is an assistant principal at Mountain View High School in Meridian, ID. He is Idaho’s 2018 Assistant Principal of the Year.