The Power of Non-Academic Interaction

by Tilly Erguder

Is the key to better academic success and student well-being outside the classroom?

Throughout my journey as a teacher and an administrator, I have had the opportunity to experience and observe various approaches toward student success and well-being. Some schools embrace exam-oriented practices, and some pursue a more holistic approach toward student success. Regardless of the variety of approaches and practices, the common goal is student well-being and academic success while empowering them to reach their full potential.

In schools, we hire the best teachers, develop curricula and learning outcomes, build social and emotional support systems, and use various tools to assess teaching and learning or develop individual student plans. Additionally, we dedicate hours to improve our approaches to teaching. We also focus on motivating and supporting students to study hard and guiding them toward the best study habits and routines. We include parents for support since our students belong to ‘all parties’. However, these are not always enough to get the best results or reach out to each student. What are students doing while we are clearing the decks for action? Are they gearing up for the challenge like we do? Are our students in the right mindset to hear us?

Just like we do, students also have a life outside of school. While they have dreams about success at school, either life is happening to them, or they do not have the discipline or motivation to organise themselves toward success and flourish socially and emotionally. They may have a lot of distractions in their lives or their inner selves; their relationship with their family and friends, dealing with stress, lack of motivation, and inevitably, procrastination. Will our carefully structured academic plans and the individual support we are providing fully help them accomplish their academic goals, or will all our work go to waste, or go unnoticed?

The teaching and learning journey is a bilateral contract that requires all parties to share the same motivation and enthusiasm. We need student involvement and cooperation in their learning which ultimately would boost their motivation and well-being and have them on the right track toward academic success. For this, they need to be equipped with the right mindset. Taking a step out of academics and focusing on this might have a profound impact.

Prioritising Well-being to Reach Academic Success

Prioritising non-academic factors can be the starting point. It is mostly the well-being that takes us through our lives. As we are all aware, academic success and well-being are interrelated. Prioritising well-being and building academic routines on top of it should better support the learning journey of our students. We will keep struggling to help our students meet academic expectations unless we reach out to them using the right tools and approaches within the school schedule. Additional academic support is absolutely a cure in many situations, however, in some cases, even though the exam results of students lead us to it, should we focus on more and more academic support or have a thorough diagnosis to find out what is going on before we take any action?

Showing Students Why School Matters

Students spend a lot of their time at school, so we need to show them why school matters. School is more motivating for students when they can relate to what is being covered in class. Going beyond the academic realm might be the magic wand here. Despite the pressure from external academic expectations, we educators and leaders should be looking for ways in each unique school setting to balance the academics and activities focusing on service and real-life experiences through their hobbies, sports or arts, or any area that would include every one of our students. Internship opportunities or going out to the real world and doing voluntary work allow them to step out of school and look back from the outside to see how what they learn in school is applicable.

Understanding Students’ Challenges and Guiding Them Toward Self-awareness

Through those moments that we create outside the classroom setting or even the school building itself, we see through our students and discover the wounded areas that need healing the most. Additionally, this may allow our students to discover themselves through social interaction with their peers and teachers and realise the areas for growth or their strengths which may end up being the areas to pursue. 

Power of Teacher-student Interaction Outside the Classroom

With a small touch on our students’ inner world, we are also supporting our teachers throughout their academic endeavours. A little focus on what is going on outside of the classroom may help us to overcome the challenges in the classroom. Engaging with teachers outside of the academic context also enables more personalised interactions which would be carried to inside-the-classroom interactions. The bond that they have with their teachers outside of academics would lead to transforming their perception of the subject and the teacher delivering it. Together with their teacher they enjoy practising the skills they gained and apply what they learned in class to those real-life experiences.

While we are interfering with our students’ lives for better academic success and their well-being, we are also helping them gain resilience. School settings are the safest environment for students to fail and rise again with a growth mindset. While rising they may need more tools and experiences besides studying harder. Even if we do not see the results of our efforts right away, we are nurturing seeds that will eventually blossom in our students’ lives.

Tilly Erguder is the Principal of Middle & High School, Canadian International School,  Hefei

To connect with Tilly on LinkedIn, click here

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1 thought on “<strong>The Power of Non-Academic Interaction</strong>”

  1. When Tilly highlights “Prioritising Well-being to Reach Academic Success,” I can’t help but think about my international school boarding experience before. Just as Tilly advocates, students spend more time at school than at home, making their physical and mental well-being at school vital. Students will not perform well if their well-being is not taken care of. I am sure every staff member in the school, regardless of their roles and responsibilities, can find this article useful from different perspectives.

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