A message from Tom Babits, Head, Primary Division
As the year draws to a close, final sports championships have concluded, final concerts and dramatic productions have been performed, and final Norval trips have occurred.
I think most people understand that all of these out-of-classroom experiences are a terrific part of the overall UCC experience. However, the significance of active engagement in the co-curricular life of the school may be greater than we realize.
We often first think of the amazing character development that occurs during out-of-classroom experiences. Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, extensively details the importance of out-of-classroom pursuits in developing characteristics that lead to success. If you haven’t had a chance, this is a great read for any parent. Since character is transferable, it’s no surprise that research shows that engaged students fare better in just about every social, emotional and academic measure.
We also think of the specific skills our boys will develop, which will give them a sense of competence and, maybe eventually, mastery. There are skills that may also open doors to even deeper experiences later.
When students are involved in a passion pursuit, or something they’re really invested in, there are strong emotions involved. I can tell you that I’ve seen more emotion at U10 sports, or at the end of the Year 4 Norval bike trip, or countless other Norval experiences for that matter, than I have in the halls and classrooms of the Prep. Knowing that emotion is the on/off switch for learning, lessons and life lessons get burned in deep during those out-of-classroom experiences. Furthermore, the risk-taking usually involved builds a solid platform for self-confidence.
UCC based co-curriculars also deepen friendships. They add layers of connection to a boy’s community through relationships. These are friendships that will last a lifetime. Those connections with friends who share a common passion also extend to a trusted adult who’s leading the activity. Dr. Michael Thompson, author of Raising Cain and Best Friends, Worst Enemies, has advised on the critical importance of each boy having at least one caring adult in the school with whom he has a close connection. Relationships aren’t an exact science, but it stands to reason that it’s through common passion pursuits that caring relationships have a good chance of developing.
So, rather than in a ranked or prioritized way, I encourage you to view all the different experiences at the school as part of an interconnected educational package. Engagement in out-of-classroom experiences creates a web of connectivity that supports your boy’s wellbeing in every domain. According to UCC’s strategic directions, it “equips each boy with the capabilities to develop the knowledge, self-awareness, and strengths of character that enable lifelong resilience, and allow him to flourish.”
As your boy moves from year to year, there will be an ever-expanding world of opportunities for engagement and more decisions to be made about what to choose. The option to not engage will also appear. I believe it’s critical to place high value on active co-curricular engagement now. By doing so, I hope that non-engagement won’t be an appealing option in the future and your son will find and choose out-of-classroom experiences for which he has a passion.
Thanks for reading.