As a teacher, one of the most common statements made to me by secondary school students is, “I think I need to cut back on my extra-curricular involvements” or “I won’t be able to succeed in my senior years if I keep playing soccer/netball/music/dancing”. Every time I hear this, I feel upset and encourage these students to keep going because I indeed am still experiencing the benefits of having learnt how to succeed and live a busy life simultaneously.
As a student, I continually danced externally, did aerobics/dance three times a week for my school, worked a casual job and studied hard to achieve an excellent TER (now ATAR). If anything, I think that cutting back my involvements in outside activities would have been a disadvantage to me both then and now. In staying active and busy in my secondary years, I was able to have an outlet away from the books, which enabled me to focus more when I did go back to homework study after dance. Additionally, I learnt excellent time management skills that I have certainly carried through to my employment. If I only had two hours to do my work, that’s all I had. This meant setting priorities… No phones, no distractions, no TV, no wasting class time, just focus, and we all know that when focused and in the zone, you produce work of a much higher standard.
Through work, I was able to earn a small income and achieve some form of independence.
In my university years, I didn’t cut back either, rather I expanded my responsibilities. I became a choreographer and coach for several teams in dance (up to six teams a year), continued my own training, worked a lot more to pay bills and completed a double university degree.
Through the combination of dance, coaching and work from a young age, I learnt about responsibility, punctuality, dedication, discipline, organisation and forward planning, and communicating with a wider group of people in both a professional and informal manner. These vital skills are life skills and they can easily be adapted in secondary school in order to be better equipped in the ‘real world’.
Now, I still compete in dance in both state and national championships, I train three times a week, coach dance teams and do additional Xtend Barre classes, as I enjoy having exercise as a part of my everyday routine. Moreover, I teach six amazing school classes and am forever marking essays and other work. I still need that outlet each day, as I could not go from teaching and marking to more marking each night straight away. It is the same for our students; they need a break too. In being so busy, I am still able to use those skills learnt in school to focus, meet deadlines and work to my highest capacity, without distraction. Had I not learnt these skills from a young age and embedded them in my daily routine, I highly doubt that I would be able to stay committed to a number of activities and I am certain that I’d only be able to manage work alone.
In saying this, I do understand that each individual is different and unique to their approach in life and that some students may feel overwhelmed when having several commitments. However, I really do see the benefits of being committed to a sport or creative art and continuing it through school years, as the skill-set that can be developed is essential for the adult world.
Head of Dance & EAL Teacher