Over the last 4 years I have been teaching in the senior end of my primary school with Year 5 and 6 students. The expectation at this end of the school (at my school anyway) is that the student’s are given exposure to as many leadership opportunities as possible – but how much is too much and are the students ready for this?
The reason for this blog post comes down to my passion for developing young leaders. Two years ago I was awarded a scholarship to be a part of a NZ Young Leaders Programme through Auckland University. I was lucky enough to be part of a group of 30 leaders from different professions from around NZ and this taught me a lot about who I am and what leadership is. This inspired me to give all student’s in my classroom a similar opportunity as I was provided with.
I have been reading some articles lately about leadership development in student’s and many educational writers believe that leadership should be confined to those that are “gifted”. I would like to challenge this theory through sharing some things that I do to give ALL student’s in my classroom the opportunity to lead in a variety of ways.
I believe all people need role models and leaders in life to be successful. Most of us agree that professions such as medicine, technology, education, business, politics, and the arts need people who can use intelligence, creativity, and critical judgment. The role of parents and educators is critical in assisting with the development of leadership attitudes and skills in students.
Two years ago we started running 2 camps a year for our Year 6 children. Which was challenging in itself when so many schools are moving away from EOTC because of the paperwork and safety elements. At the beginning of the year we take the children (our leaders) away for a 2 day “leadership” camp. At this camp the student’s are challenged to work together and take part in activities that challenge them as a group, as individuals and as a collective. They are given opportunities to challenge each other and be challenged by the staff and parents. We encourage them to let go of all pre conceived ideas and reflect on their learning both as leaders and as followers. This camp sets up their year as leaders in our school. It is an extremely powerful experience for the students and one that they reflect back on throughout the year. At the end of the year we take the student’s away for a 5 day camp to celebrate their leadership learning and to push them outside their comfort zones. It is a fun and rewarding way to end the year.
In my school the children are given opportunities throughout the school year to be involved in several leadership “groups” that all children look up to. We have “Yellow Shirts” who are selected by the staff and they go through peer mediator training. They then work in the playground with student’s at lunchtimes to help solve problems and administer basic first aid. Another group are our PAL’s (Physical Activity Leaders) who get a lot of training and a huge amount of support to run games and activities for student’s at lunchtimes by themselves. I also run an ICT help desk crew. They are trained up to assist students and staff throughout the year and are called upon almost every day – it is very cool to see their faces wen they help someone. Other responsibilities in my school include: Bell monitors, lunch monitors, office helpers, road patrol monitors, plus many more. Leadership is extremely powerful.
These examples are to show you the types of opportunities I believe all student’s deserve the opportunity to be involved in at a primary school level. Some student’s will jump at the opportunity to be involved in these groups and others will naturally shy away from these. The key thing for me is that they get the chance to be a part of leadership. There is still something powerful in being a follower and watching leadership from a distance. I really do believe that every student in my classroom is a leader during some part of their day and that this is a key part to being a confident and successful person in life. Is this for everyone – No, not at all, but does everyone deserve the chance to be a leader – ABSOLUTELY!
All student’s deserve the opportunity to lead and be lead – if you are an educator and you are not giving these opportunities to your students I think your student’s and parent’s deserve to know why? The power that these opportunities give student’s is remarkable and it is fantastic to see how much confidence can positively effect the life and abilities of a student.
Give your student’s the chance to lead – you will be amazed at the results.
I would love to hear your thoughts about leadership and what you do in your classroom.