All the World's A School...and
Teachers Play Many Roles
Springtime brings a whole new crop of budding teachers, fresh from the schools of education. They will find that their first teaching jobs will come with some strings attached. The novices will probably be required to take on responsibilities outside the classroom. These are usually called “extra duties.” Coaching is a dominant example. The old football, basketball and baseball seasons have been expanded to include soccer, tennis, volleyball, golf, cross country, track, swimming, bowling and others. Many of these are offered on separate schedules for girls and boys. Each team requires at least one coach and usually some assistants.
Beyond sports, directors and advisers are needed for an eclectic array of other activities. The school newspaper, yearbook, speech team, thespian society, brain game team, and student council are just a few of these. In addition, there are teacher sponsors needed for each club in the school, and the number of clubs can run into double digits.
We veterans often have enough seniority that we can pick and choose what we want to do with regard to these extra duties. After all, we have paid our dues. As a young teacher, I spent many fall evenings in drafty barns watching adolescents create papier-mâché bears, tigers, bulldogs, and devils as they built their homecoming floats. Until that time in my life, I did not realize the many versatile uses of crepe paper and chicken wire.
For thirteen years I sponsored the junior-senior prom. I never fancied myself to be a party planner or cruise director, but teachers often find themselves leading the way in activities they never dreamed of doing and which were certainly never mentioned in university education classes. When extra duty calls, the teacher must answer. Every April, in addition to classroom lessons and homework papers, my desk was cluttered with catalogs, contracts, letters and memos about prom invitations, tasseled booklets, tablecloths, centerpieces, flowers, bands, ballrooms, photographers, and, of course, the all-important prom kings, queens and their tuxedoed courts. I am proud to say that the proms under my guidance came off pretty smoothly. One year, however, I awoke on Sunday morning after the event and realized that the queen’s dozen long-stem roses were still in the cooler at the Valle Vista Golf Club. That afternoon they were royally received by the queen’s mother while her highness was off on the senior picnic. Looking back, those proms were fun for my wife and me. How many couples do you know who attended a dozen high school proms together?
Teachers are often called upon to adjudicate everything from honor society selection to pie-eating contests. I have served as a learned judge in debates, talent shows, poster competitions, hallway decorating, essay writing, photography, and various tests involving all manner of structures built with only toothpicks or popsicle sticks.
To be honest, most of the extra duties are interesting if not downright fun. There’s nothing like the spontaneity and enthusiasm that come with youth. It is true that you’ll never grow old in a world where everyone is young. In addition, associating with students on an informal basis outside the classroom has all kinds of benefits for the teacher inside the room. Bonds formed at extracurricular events can mean more incentive and cooperation from students in academic settings.
Seasoned teachers take it in stride when they are asked to work hard in the classroom all day and then return at night to take tickets at a game or stay late and help with play practice. They know that you never keep track of your hours. It’s not that type of job. As a matter of fact, it’s not a job at all. It’s a lifestyle. Good luck to all of the new teachers. By the way, would anyone like to sponsor the chess club?