The minute the averagely over-worked teacher reads the title of this article, their heart will flutter will stress. Teachers barely get a lunchtime, let alone having the time to set up clubs. When is a teacher supposed to have a break, use the restroom, or eat?
I couldn't agree more, so let me start by clarifying what this article is about. In our school, like most schools, I am required to do a certain amount of recess duties, which includes one lunchtime slot. So I proposed that instead of walking around the cafeteria watching children push food around their plates, I could run a lunchtime club that is stimulating for both myself and the students. It would be a longer "duty," but I'd get to choose the club. Deal?
Lunch With the Doctor
I've been a fan of the British family science-fiction show Doctor Who since I was a boy. For those unfamiliar with this BBC television program, it's about an alien (the Doctor) and his human friends traveling in time and space to battle monsters and villains using their wits, not violence. The show was launched in 1963 to inspire children's interest in science and history, and wasn't supposed to be about bug-eyed aliens. Those aliens inevitably appeared, became very popular with the young audience, and the whole concept fused into a winning formula. The BBC brought it back 11 years ago after a long hiatus, and with a decent special effects budget and quality leading actors, it has been thriving ever since.
I'm now teaching at the third school where I've hosted a lunchtime club with Doctor Who. We eat and watch an episode, often stopping to discuss the sometimes complicated plot, the moral dilemma, or the historical context. This club was as successful in my former school in China as it is here in Germany, where the show is new for all the audiences. Doctor Who often has some scary parts, so I set an age limit of third grade or older, and seek parental approval beforehand. I currently have as many girls as boys attending.
What I love about this club are the conversations and investigations that it inspires. Club members from across the grades are constantly talking to me about the show. They read the spin-off monster compendium books and write their own texts. They play Doctor Who playground games and write time travel stories. They have deep discussions about black holes, galaxies, Shakespeare, the morality of time travel, etc.
However, better than my club is what's happening for the first time this year: student-initiated and student-managed lunchtime clubs. About two months ago, a student in my fourth-grade class asked if she could run her own acting club for our enthusiastic first-grade buddy class. I agreed on these conditions:
- She would create a lesson plan outline (as a Google Doc so that she could share it with me).
- She would meet with the first-grade teacher to organize times for talking to the class.
- She would organize her own materials and time accordingly.
Being a highly responsible and able student, she managed all this easily.
At around the same time, another equally independent and motivated student asked if she could do a writers club with the same first-grade students, but on a different day. I agreed, laying out the same conditions, which she also met. A few weeks later, another group of fourth-grade students started an art club to teach art skills to students from the other first-grade class. They have since informed the whole school in an assembly and inspired other students to take action.
Student action is a key component of our IB curriculum -- but isn't student action really a key component of learning and life? We want our older students to act as role models and leaders for the younger students, just as we adults need to do the same for each other. To inspire and facilitate this is essential to our roles.
In reality, I am present for the acting club, as it occurs in my classroom, but I don't have to do anything apart from the occasional reminder to help with behavior management (although it's really enthusiasm management). My kindly first-grade colleagues are watching over the other two clubs. I've had to check in with my students sometimes to help them develop their presentation skills and patience, especially as more and more of their friends want to help out. But this is a good opportunity to help my students with their social-emotional development, something I would be doing anyway.
Benefits Versus Work
The benefits of these lunchtime clubs are obvious, and I can honestly say that they take little additional work. In fact, I look forward to watching Doctor Who with the students -- it's a highlight of the week for me. And I love seeing my students take leadership roles in the school.
When I started out, surprised colleagues joked that they too should do film clubs -- or anything else that they love -- to get off doing duties. I simply told them, "Yes, you should!" Now one of these colleagues is offering a lunchtime yoga club. What a brilliant idea! You could do the same. Share a passion, have fun, and inspire the students.