By Jason Little

Educators are often asked—and sometimes even volunteer—to be the adviser of a cocurricular activity. It’s not an easy job and you won’t get rich doing it, but it can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable parts of your job.

When I became a club adviser, I took over a successful club that was run by an organized person, so I figured it would be an easy transition. It wasn’t. All the hard work the previous adviser had put into it was gone and I was left to start from scratch, wondering if there wasn’t an easier way.

Having been a club adviser for three years now, I have learned many things to help make my club successful and keep my own stress level down. In the interest of making it easier for someone else just starting out, here are a few tips to being a successful adviser:

  • The students should be doing the bulk of the work. One of the main purposes of cocurricular activities is to allow students to take on leadership roles and gain leadership experience. It is your duty as an adviser to help this along whenever possible. Club officers should be organizing the group’s activities, keeping records, writing letters, making phone calls, and doing the work of the club. The adviser is there to guide the students and ensure that all decisions are appropriate and for the good of the school. There are a few jobs the adviser should have more of a hand in—accounting paperwork and discipline of nonparticipating members, for example—but the majority of the work can be done by students, depending on their level of experience.
  • Communicate your expectations. Be specific when communicating expectations to your group’s officers and members and give precise directions on how you want things to be done. Give students feedback on how well they are doing and give praise for jobs well done.
  • Be consistent from day one. Start from the first meeting enforcing the rules and making members follow procedures. If the club bylaws say a member can not miss a meeting or they will be removed from the club, then when the first member misses a meeting you must remove them. An inch now will be a mile later.
  • Plan officer meetings. Meet with the officers prior to the meetings to discuss an agenda. The officers should be well informed so they can lead the club. The officer meeting is where the adviser needs to do more talking to help prepare the officers to lead the general meeting.
  • Create lists for the officers. Write up the tasks to be completed and when they need to be completed. The president can delegate jobs to the various officers and members.
  • Create a plan for projects. If you have been the adviser of the same club for several years or if you have been an adviser in the past, you already know of some of the jobs that will need to be completed for an upcoming project. Go ahead and create a plan for the project. Create a list of questions to be answered and jobs that will need to be completed and give these to your officers. Do not plan everything out for them though. If the upcoming project is a dance, you would not want to choose the theme or the decorations, for example. You would, however, give them a deadline for when the decision has to be made. The students usually do not think about making tickets, hiring security, buying refreshments, making signs, and creating a ticket sales schedule for lunch periods. They would eventually get to them, but giving them a list at the outset will speed up the process.
  • Students should speak for the club. From assemblies to discussing fundraiser ideas with the principal, have the students do the talking, but go over details with them beforehand so they are well prepared.
  • Use forms to keep yourself and the members organized. I have a form for almost every task that is to be completed, from meeting notes and financial reports to subcommittees and discipline of members. If you teach your officers to do the paperwork from day one the way you want it and check them as they go, they do most of the work and it gets done correctly. You might also give each officer a binder in which to keep their club information.

Club advising can be stressful, especially that first year, as you are picking up where someone else left off and trying to put your own personal spin on the club. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll not only survive, you’ll thrive as a club adviser.

Jason Little (little_j@cneschools.org) is student senate adviser at Clermont Northeastern HS in Batavia, OH.