The easiest way to become really good at developing student leadership is to develop a student leadership mindset. That way, you will find leadership opportunities everywhere in your teaching.
Developing student leadership is as much about the mindset of the teachers involved as it is about the programs schools conduct.
The current trend for promoting resilience is a great example of this. There are a number of commercial programs available for teaching kids about resilience. Their proper implementation will go some way to developing resilience in kids.
BUT if a school is to promote resilience then it will need to establish a resilience-promoting culture and shape the environment in a way that promotes resilience.
Teachers then need to become aware of resilience and use its concepts in their every day teaching. That is, they may encourage a child to work that little bit harder to grasp a certain concept, not because that concept is important, but because she or he is operating from a resilient mindset. Knowing that a little struggle is good for a child from a ‘resilience’ viewpoint the teacher encourages the child to ‘hang tough’, ‘keep going’. Every day learning tasks can become opportunities to promote resilience when you develop a resilience mindset.
The same principle must apply to leadership if you want to develop leadership capabilties in kids. You need to develop leadership mindsets that promote leadership learning opportunities within the regular curriculum. When you look for these leadership opportunities they will suddenly crop up everywhere.
Here are five examples of leadership opportunities available within everyday teaching:
1 Appoint a leader whenever students work in groups . Whether it is in the art room, in physical education or in a maths class, students always have opportunities to work in groups. Groups offer an opportunity for someone to take a lead. Following the group work, ask the students to spend a few minutes discussing the leader’s effectiveness. They may even provide him or her with some valuable feedback.
2 Turn regular discussions into presentations skills practice . From time to time turn a class discussion or question and answer session into a presentation skills session by asking students to stand and articulate their answers or response like ‘speakers’. Presentation skills training is one of the basics of leadership development but they need to focused on if they are to develop.
3 Give students action planners to help them better organise their assignments . Project management and delegation are important leadership skills that can be practised by managing personal homework tasks. The use of lists and action planners are not only good for personal organisation but are useful leadership tools as well.
4 Focus on leaders . When discussing literature, news, movies or current events direct students’ focus to the notion of leadership. ‘How did that character show effective leadership?’ ‘What type of leader do we need to lead a country or even a sports team?’
5 Look for mentoring moments . Buddy situations are common in many schools at the moment. Ask a student to work with a younger student for a time who is experiencing a learning difficulty or perhaps behaving poorly. Ask that student to look for ways to get the best out of that student, which in many ways is the essence of leadership. There are many mentor-mentee moments every day but you need to be on the lookout for them.
So here is your task. Start focusing on leadership opportunities over the next week. Get to know the five building blocks in the Young Leaders Program (Responsibility, Presentations skills, Organisation, Confidence and Team skills) and then take a fresh look at the teaching and learning opportunities that crop up every day.
Before long you will begin to develop a mindset whereby you are on the lookout for student leadership development opportunities everywhere. And it won’t be long until you will find them everywhere.
Michael Grose is the creator of the Young Leaders Program, that is available in over 1200 Australian schools. Get your free Student Leadership Scope and Sequence chart valued at $110 when you order a Young Leaders Program Starter or Premium pack. Go to www.youngleadersprogram.com.au/store or call 1800 004 484