Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Boys and Girls of Fall

On a recent bike ride, the slightest nip of coolness in the air gave hope that fall would soon relieve our summer suffering. And my route past the UCO practice fields offered an additional sign that autumn was near: young men and women in training for fall sports. Seeing these young athletes brought to my mind Kenny Chesney’s song "The Boys of Fall." (Yes, I’m a country music fan. ‘Nuff said.) I like this song for its soothing melody and Kenny’s mellow voice. But mostly I like its lyrics.  

In this song Kenny is waxing nostalgic about his high school football days. After all, he is from the south, and this is country music. I happen to like football, but whatever your feelings toward the sport might be, if you listen to the words, I think you’ll find he's saying there's more to it than just playing the game. “You mess with one man, you got us all” suggests that much of the thrill is about the camaraderie, about being a team. And that thought brought me to reflect on another fall event: the beginning of the school year.  

Regardless of what they admit to, I think most students look forward to the new school year. It’s a time for new beginnings, new hopes, new adventures. But sadly, not all students share this excitement. Some unfortunate souls approach this event with a sense of dread.  

I’m no expert, but my experiences as a former teacher and as a parent suggest to me that a child’s attitude toward school rests hugely on the opportunity to get involved in something other than academics. Whether it’s a sports team, the drama club, or the philatelist (look it up) society, being part of a group that shares common goals and interests can have an enormous impact on success in school. Humans are social animals. Even the shyest among us wants to feel that he belongs, that he matters, that someone’s “got [his] back, when [his] back’s against the wall.” 

Granted, Kenny's song states that the football team doesn't "let just anybody in that club." It is a fact that certain groups require certain skills. But at the school where I taught, myriad opportunities for involvement existed from Astronomy Club to Young Republicans/Democrats, and everything in between. All a student needed in order to join was the interest and desire. If you have or know of young people who are less than enthusiastic about starting school, encourage them find an extracurricular activity. It might be difficult at first, but if they work at it, I’m almost certain they can find a group that interests them. The feeling of belonging can be a real game-changer. 

(For expert advice on the value of student involvement, visit Dr. Lisa Marotta's blog.)



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