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Sometimes the fun begins after school…

UCDS runs a terrific Extended Day Program before and after school. Most kids attend because their parents are working, but many kids beg their parents to let them “stay after school” at least once a week. They love the fun of free time with friends, a chance to partake of artistic open-ended games and craft projects, and an opportunity to nurture relationships with a whole additional group of adults who are passionate about kids and teaching. Four days a week, the school also offers a wide range of after school clubs. Parents sign students up by the season, for an additional fee. Clubs are taught by teachers or staff from within the school or teachers with specialty skills who are contracted from outside the school. Clubs usually run an hour per session and run the gamut: Art Club, Basketball Skills, Calligraphy, Capoeira, Chef Club, Chess, Games and Sports, Guitar, Lego Robotics, Mandarin Language and Culture, Makerbot, Origami, Photography, Poetry, Indian Cooking, Improv, Script Development, Sewing, Tinker Town and Yoga, to name just some.

You get the idea – just about anything goes! If you have an idea, and you want to try it with kids – try it as a club! Clubs are super popular. When more students express interest than space allows, a lottery determines who can attend that session. There is usually another opportunity the next season for those not randomly selected.

Why would I want to ADD to my teaching day?

While it sometimes feels like a big commitment to offer to lead an extracurricular club at the end of a day of teaching, if provides some really unique benefits that should not be discounted. First and foremost, it’s an opportunity to share something you love with kids who are excited to learn about it! The groups are small compared to a class size, and all the kids have chosen to be there (occasionally you might meet the child whose parent has signed them up unwittingly, but they are usually easy to win over because every other peer is excited to be there).  Our teachers have the option to cap the class size and to request an assistant teacher for larger groups (most clubs run with 8-14 students). A teacher has autonomy over planning the sessions, with the only expectations being those that you set for yourself. There is no grading, progress reporting, or end-of-year productions (unless you choose to show parents what you’ve been up to with a demo or take-home project at the end of the club sessions). Teaching a topic of interest for 6-8 sessions, or better yet, teaming up with a like-minded colleague to develop activities/lessons and co-teach a club has become one of my favorite ways to continue to develop new interests myself. As a long time elementary teacher, it’s possible to feel a little stagnant, falling back on what is comfortable or tried and true. I love the low stakes opportunity to feel that anticipation (even butterflies in my stomach) when I am working with a brand new grouping of kids in a club and trying something that I’ve only imagined might be fun! As a veteran it keeps my skill set honed, keeps me thinking outside the box, and (when things don’t go as planned) lets me practice flexible problem solving. I must be honest and admit that receiving a monetary stipend for leading a club does sweeten the prospect (in our school the afterschool club programs generate revenue, even when teachers are generously paid per diem). But by far, the larger rewards for me is the self-initiated professional development and the joy of deepening relationships with students and co-teachers.

I have led and assisted with a variety of afterschool clubs at UCDS over the years, but for the last three years, Yoga Club has become one of my favorites. In an upcoming post, I’ll write about how I organize the hour long sessions for 3-6 year olds and 7-10 year olds, and pass on some of my favorite resources, including ways to incorporate the benefits of yoga practice into the classroom day.

-Melinda Deal, Specialist Teacher