Q: Is teaching for an after-school program a good way to find a job in K–12?
A: If you’re trying to get into teaching at a K–12 school, teaching in after-school programs is a possible way to get your foot in the door. You will get to know some of the decision-makers and become a familiar face. If you have the appropriate credentials and are ready, you can be at the front of the line when something opens up. I was lucky enough to have that happen to me, and 20 years later I am still at my school, leading the program I built.
That said, teaching in an after-school program at a K–12 school is not necessarily the same thing as teaching during the school day. In fact, it can be significantly more challenging. For one, you don’t have the same authority to establish classroom order. I’m an advocate of positive reinforcement, but there are times that you need to have the weight of discipline options, like sending a student to the principal’s office, to keep things moving. Beyond discipline, kids are just plain tired after 3 pm. In terms of our natural circadian rhythms, this is generally the time of day human bodies want a nap (no matter the age). You have to consider that kids have most likely been following directions all day and need some truly free time. A focused mental task isn’t always what is needed.
Still, there are so many teachers who have successful after-school programs precisely because they offer something that is not the same as at school. Even if the school does have dance, this is a chance to offer something new. A special dance company for students to create their own choreography, or discover a technique that they don’t get during the day, will catch the dedicated students. When you get students who choose to be in your class, you might find it easier to manage behavior, as well.