Acting Head of Extra-curricular
Extra-curricular – All the Fun Stuff
My siblings were, at first, suitably puzzled when they heard of my appointment to the role of Acting Dean of Extra-Curricular for the remainder of 2020. After a short pause, my younger sister informed us that the position should be renamed “Dean of all the Fun Stuff that gets you Scholarship positions at University and Prepares you for the World”… she went on to give it a ridiculous acronym! The opinion in her humorous quip was based firmly in her experiences as a highly perceptive telecommunications executive who has encountered many exceptional and less-than-exceptional graduates. She is acutely aware of the edge given to an applicant with impressive commitment to relevant extra-curricular pursuits.
Focus on transferrable skills
We each have a sense of the fast-paced change occurring in our world and the need for conventional education curricula to evolve and pave the way to a new kind of education and learning. In the book 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, the authors have premised that “the world has changed so fundamentally in the last few decades that the roles of learning and education in day-to-day living have also changed forever”. This could not have been more apparent than in the first six months of 2020.
For several years now there has been an emphasis on the so-called ‘soft skills’ that we hope graduates take with them into the wider world. These transferrable skills, such as effective communication, deliberate collaboration, thoughtful negotiation, deep problem-solving, strong leadership and successful interpersonal relationships – can be a secondary priority during academic learning. Many of these aptitudes, necessary to function beyond secondary school, cannot be directly assessed through formative or summative tasks.
Involvement in extra-curricular activities such as sports, debating, music, coding and creative and performing arts, develops in students a greater ability to work effectively with others, refine their time-management skills and foster a resourceful commitment to long-term projects. Through involvement in extra-curricular activities, individuals are educated on how to win with humility and to lose with dignity. In turn, these skills support the development of better emotional and social intelligence – traits that combine to establish an individual’s personality. They can be learned, and they are highly valued by recruiters.
Figure: Essential Abilities, Skills, and Values developed through extra-curricular activities. Dipankar Sarkar (2020)
Holistic learners – growing the whole person
Education and learning must surpass the four walls of a classroom. Extra-curricular programs aim to complement academic subjects, working together to educate the whole person. At Loreto Normanhurst, extra-curricular activities are integral to a holistic education. A diversity of activities encourages students to discover and develop their individual talents, skills and interests. Sport and music programs, social justice groups, public speaking, debating, Future Problem Solving and many more clubs, together with opportunities for leadership and community service, help students to become active and productive members of society.
Enrichment for Empowerment
A paper published in 2010 by Dr Karen Martin of the school of population health at the University of Western Australia, referred to the notion that increased participation in sport and other forms of activity are thought to lead to enhancement of cognitive functioning, memory, concentration, behaviour and academic achievement. The bespoke nature of extra-curricular opportunities promotes enthusiasm, vitality, positive thinking and team spirit.
Research has shown that involvement in extra-curricular activities provides a unique range of social experiences that build character, strengthen connectedness and enhance student achievement. It is associated with a greater level of school satisfaction, higher feelings of self-control, improved confidence and greater educational and occupational aspirations. For many, their fondest memories may well be of their time participating in extra-curricular activities.
Activities in the era of COVID-19
Although distance learning has been made possible thanks to video streaming technology, extra–curriculars are much harder to continue with the COVID-19 restrictions. Team sports, music ensembles, interest–groups, training, competing, volunteering and many of the additional things that usually make up the schooling experience, are currently on hold.
Whilst navigating the shifting sands of day to day logistics poses evolving challenges, Loreto staff and students are agile. There is an ingrained culture of adapting and responding to change with resilience and spirit, ensuring preparedness for the next phase. The members of our community involved with extra-curricular pursuits have sustained a process of careful reflection and discernment, improving and modifying processes and opportunities where appropriate.
The LN Sport department is mirroring government guidelines and has developed a comprehensive checklist and roadmap highlighting the steps to return to training, friendly matches and representative sport. They are keen to get the girls back onto the courts and fields.
Music lessons and Speech & Drama have continued via video conferencing with the participants displaying commendable independence and diligence. Our orators are eager to resume their public speaking and debating competitions, several of which are being re-imagined, with plans for students to participate via virtual platforms. Other clubs and initiatives have moved to an online format, including Coding club, the Mary Word Student Newspaper and the Green Team. The current circumstances have revealed excellent problem-solving capacities, to devise creative solutions to the restrictions imposed by physical distancing guidelines.
As the weeks and months ahead of us unfold, it will be necessary to digest our learnings from this experience and to contemplate carefully which changes we wish to retain…
All the fun stuff – I couldn’t agree more!
Ms Beth Nairn
Acting Dean of Extra-Curricular