I recently had the opportunity to participate in the school district's long-term Vision and Mission planning initiative, and this involved coming together with twenty-eight individuals representing the school board, business, educators, students, and concerned citizens in order to identify core strategic objectives. Over the course of eight weeks it was a first-class affair, and after some guided discussion everyone came to a general consensus for areas which the administration and board will concentrate their efforts in months to come.
One objective was directed at student growth and achievement throughout the school district, calling for "the improved growth and achievement for each student, each year through personalized
learning, continual data, reflection, fluid delivery of services/supports, and
leadership development." Those last two words caught my immediate attention as I believe that all schools, not just those of my employment, have issues which can be directly tied to lack of student leadership.
Grooming future leaders is not any easy, but I credit those people who recognize this as a serious issue. While students might aspire to be a leader, what vehicle is in place (or could be put into place) which will best cultivate this practice. When we say the word "leader", do our students construct an image of a well-known politician, athlete, movie-star or best-selling rap artist?
Good leadership does not happen overnight and there are a multitude of organizations already attempting to address that issue, including National Honor Society, Student Council, Link Crew and many more. Grooming student leaders should not involve the manipulation of students whereby staff is making the decisions and students are asked to 'rubberstamp' their decisions. I also tend to shy away from programs that simply inform students and then little is done to stimulate discussion for the expression of personal opinion. Traditional schools often take satisfaction in finding one student who will serve as leader for their class, and although a leader can have their ideas, change cannot be adopted through the actions of only one person.
In my journey as Class Advisor to the Freshmen Class this past year, I see those individuals with the potential to lead. I often refer to them as the quiet leaders within their groups of friends...those who know right from wrong and are looked up to by others. These individuals are diamonds in the rough. With the right nurturing they could exert influence for positive change throughout the school and community. I look forward to seeing how the district's new initiative is addressed from this point forward, and I'll gladly contribute my time and effort in empowering students so they are actively involved in the decision-making process. Peter Parker (a/k/a Spiderman) noted it well, "With great power comes great responsibility."