For high-school students, the imposition of Bill 115 by the Ontario government Thursday means the rest of the school year is shaping up to be as dreary as its beginning.
Since the fall, their days have been marred by the absence of sports teams and clubs – and teachers’ frustration could lead to the continued withdrawal of non-academic activities until the contract expires in two years.
Teachers are angry with how Bill 115 dictates the terms of their contract and makes strike action illegal.
Leading and supervising extracurriculars are volunteer activities, and as part of their job action in the fall, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation directed its members to take a ‘pause’ from such voluntary work.
For students, however, extracurriculars are a vital component of their school life – and for those in their final year of high school, of their university applications.
Thousands of students from across the province and GTA protested the bill’s effects at Queen’s Park and a new student group, the Organization of Ontario Secondary Students, was born before the holidays, demanding that the dispute be resolved and extracurriculars reinstated.
To get the most out of these valuable non-academic extras, students across the country are willing to extend their days from early morning to late at night. Activities outside the classroom “[tell] you where you want to be in life and where we want to be as a whole,” said Mohamed Abdulhussain, 17, one of three students who talked to the Globe about their extracurricular commitments. “I would be a very different person [without the clubs]. Doing these gives context to my life,” he said.
Zahra Syed, 16, a student at Toronto’s Monarch Park Collegiate Institute, said it’s really important to have “a solid amount of extracurriculars.”
“It shows that you’re a well-rounded person,” she said. “If all they’re going by is your academic record, it doesn’t stand out as much because you have, say, 30 other people with the same academic record… extras stand out.”
Here is a look at how students manage it all. Or in the case of Ontario students, don’t any more.
ZAHRA SYED, 16: TORONTO
Ms. Syed is a Grade 11 student at Monarch Park Collegiate Institute. She says her high school experience focuses on her extracurricular activities. She is part of her school’s drama club, anime club, vocal club and more. Almost every activity was teacher-run and every activity is now gone. Her schedule used to look like this:
Morning activities: None. Her school day starts around 9 a.m.
Lunch: At lunch, she rotated from one teacher-run activity to another, including the debate club, her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and others. Regardless, Ms. Syed said there was always something on.
School: Her school day ends just after 3 p.m.
After school activities: Ms. Syed usually stayed at school for several hours after it ended. On Mondays, she went to vocals club, on Tuesdays she had anime club, on Wednesdays she was either at a drama club rehearsal or the debate club or the art club, on Thursdays she was back at drama club rehearsals and on Fridays she said she usually volunteered – something that was organized by her teachers.
Homework: Ms. Syed says she does between one and two hours of school work a night, but it could change since she has a light course load this semester.
JADEY BAUER, 16: EDMONTON
Ms. Bauer is a Grade 11 student at Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton. She divides her time between school, volunteering, music and her school’s audio visual club. She says she gets five or six hours of sleep a night and weekends off “if I’m lucky.”
For some of her clubs, she says having a good teacher volunteering outside of class time makes a world of difference. “Some of my teachers go above and beyond to have their door open at lunch hours, even to give extra help,” Ms. Bauer says. “It’s really important for me.”
Morning activities: Unless there’s an event she needs to “drag myself out of bed” for, Ms. Bauer’s mornings are usually free. Her school day starts around 9 a.m.
Lunch: Ms. Bauer spends her lunch rotating through various activities, and every Tuesday she participates in a leadership program.
School: Her school day ends around 3:30 p.m.
After school activities: Most days, Ms. Bauer stays at school until 5 or 6 p.m. as part of the audio-visual club and her various music programs (she sings, plays guitar, bass and piano, is in a band, and tries to find time to work on her DJ skills).
In the winter, she says she expects to be even busier because she will be part of the school’s musical theatre troupe.
Homework: When she does leave school, Ms. Bauer says she spends about three to four hours on homework and two to three hours a day on music, whether in an organized group or just as a hobby.
MOHAMED ABDULHUSSAIN, 17: HALIFAX
Mr. Abdulhussain is a Grade 12 student in Halifax West High School’s international baccalaureate program in Nova Scotia. He spends almost as much time doing extracurricular activities as he does sleeping. He is the president of the school’s Rotary Club, part of the environment committee, and a minister in the world involvement club, but teachers don’t play a huge role in his clubs. Recently, he was the deputy party leader during model Parliament and helped emcee the school’s multicultural show.
Morning activities: Sometimes Mr. Abdulhussain goes in early to school to help with model Parliament or other events, including fund-raising initiatives. His school day starts around 9 a.m.
Lunch: Except on Friday, when he takes the day off, Mr. Abdulhussain’s lunches are usually packed. On Monday, he runs the school’s Rotary Club, on Tuesday he participates in the environment committee’s executive meetings because he introduced a school-wide cleanup idea.
On Wednesday, he attends the environment committee’s general meeting and on Thursday he helps run and fund raise for the school’s world involvement meeting.
School: His school day ends around 3:30 p.m.
After school: Mr. Abdulhussain doesn’t usually get home until between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. because his clubs are involved in meetings and fund-raising drives.
Homework: Once he’s home, he still has between four and five hours of homework to do, as well as at least 30 minutes of administrative club work each day for his clubs to make sure “everything is well planned.”
He goes to bed around 1 a.m.