Want to start a club at your school? Worried about how to recruit students to join? Read on and find out some great tips to make starting a club easy!
1. Write an Outstanding Proposal – List the benefits your club will have for your students and your school. Link your club’s benefits to your school’s District and School Improvement Plans. Tell how it will connect to the Common Core and benefit a school’s accreditation process. Explain how your club will engage a variety of learners and be advantageous for a wide range of students. Discuss how it will contribute to the community.
2. Keep the Proposal Short – Administrators may not have time to read long proposals. Use bullet points to highlight the benefits of your club, including how much funding will cost, how many students will benefit, and hours and days of operation. I find it best to both email and give the administrator a hard copy of the proposal.
3. Have All Your Bases Covered – If your club needs materials, state exactly what you will need. If you have a plan on how you might be able to get those materials for free (donations, grants, Donorschoose, etc.) be sure to mention it. Include an accurate budget for club operation.
4. Find Your Own Funding – There are many grants out there (especially for clubs that focus on environmental issues, technology, engineering, and literacy). An internet search, a review of teacher magazines like NEA Today can provide ideas. Tap into local businesses to “adopt a club.” A few years ago, I offered free advertising in our school’s literary magazine in order to support that club.
5. Make You Club Sustainable – A Mock Trial Club will thrive when there is a “Constitutional Law” or “Legal Issues” class. Journalism classes support school newspapers. Art classes feed art clubs. English and Social Studies classes can fuel Debate Teams. As our world changes, new clubs can be added to the list. Our school now has a Robotics Club and an Anime Club that did not exist twenty years ago when I first started teaching.
6. Get a Stipend for Being a Club Advisor – Most jobs would not expect or require employees to work extra hours for no compensation. It is important that a teacher’s time and expertise be valued. Not receiving payment for work done devalues our profession and limits respect for what we do. Every club advisor should receive a stipend for work done.
Recruiting Students for your Club:
In some schools, the top 10% of the students run 95% of the clubs. It is essential that teachers and educational staff work to engage as many students as possible in co-curricular activities. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Use your own classes as club “feeders.” When I started the Culture Club at my school, I made sure my current students knew about our field trips to the opera and museums, as well as our high-impact community service activities. In turn, these students brought their friends into the club. I’ve often suggested a club to a student – I had a student who I noticed was into anime, so I recommended he join the Anime Club. The student was shy and reserved, but when I gave him all the information about the club, he was willing to give it a try.
2. Allow students some leeway in attendance and participation. Because I teach in a low-income, urban school, many of my students frequently have to work or take care of younger siblings after school and on the weekends. For this reason, I list the minimum of service requirements that students need to meet (on their own timetable), and I allow students to choose which field trips they are able to attend. Creating a rotating schedule may help in clubs like Speech and Debate or Mock Trial Clubs.
3. Recruit and ask other teachers to help you recruit. My friend, Myles, is the Advisor to our school newspaper, and he was having difficulty getting enough articles for each issue. He turned to the English teachers at my school, and he was able to get some great submissions: a sophomore in my English class submitted some wonderful poetry. A junior in my Film class wrote a compelling argument linking the movie, Do the Right Thing, with the events in Ferguson. A student in another class wrote a personal narrative about being a vegan, which turned into a great feature for the newspaper.
4. Ask for help. Oftentimes school social workers and guidance counselors come in contact with students who would benefit from club participation. They are excellent resources for club recruiting. Deans and vice principals can make great referrals, as well.
5. Take a Chance on Students. I am advisor to the Future Teachers Club at my school, a service learning club in which students are paid to mentor middle school students. In many cases, the middle school students who participate in the club have academic or behavior issues, and several are special needs students. Over the years, as these middle school students moved on to high school, they started to join the Club as Future Teachers. I was amazed at the level of commitment and responsibility these students brought to the Club. It made me realize that there is a wide pool of students who have the dedication and leadership abilities to contribute to school clubs.