The Leadership Training Program for seventh and eighth graders gives students an opportunity to learn and exercise leadership skills. It has two components – learning about leadership in the classroom, and practicing leadership under teacher direction.
The classroom learning component is designed to present models of great leadership. Under the guidance of their homeroom teachers, students study the characteristics and accomplishments of great leaders in history. In the eighth grade, during a year-long series of short talks from the head of school, students learn about the Greek cardinal virtues and are shown how to develop their own innate potential in order to become great young men and women.
The second component of the leadership program focuses on opportunity and practice that follow several guiding principles:
We understand that children learn responsibility by having opportunities to practice responsibility. Teachers have created “fields of practice,” realms of meaningful school responsibility – librarians, office helpers, aids in primary classrooms, indoor recess helpers, managers of inspirational hallway bulletin boards, even chances to be inspirational speakers to younger children by reading stories and poems. Students also help organize schoolwide service projects such as gathering and boxing materials to send to those in need.
Next, we believe that as students learn elementary levels of responsibility they can be entrusted with greater responsibilities. Students learn how to be responsible for themselves; then they learn how to be responsible for things; and finally they learn how to be responsible for people. The school understands that learning responsibility takes time and there will be mistakes. But under patient and kind adult supervision, leadership can flourish.
The third principle understands the relationship between responsibility and privilege. As students become more responsible, they are given greater privilege within the school setting to arrange, manage and use their time.
Because roles of leadership vary, we provide different opportunities to lead. Some students can head up committees or lead programs that require leading and organizing people. Other students shine when they are asked to organize and manage data or produce a new school program.
Middle school students thrive when given a chance to lead and be of service to others. When they understand the importance of what they are doing and are given the nod of confidence from teachers, young teens innately respond to the respect and responsibility given to them. Such opportunities can play a big part in affirming self-esteem and self-confidence.
Compassion and empathy are synonymous with personal responsibility. Young leaders need to understand their responsibility to younger students and their own peers. Our leadership program gives each middle school student opportunities to serve other children. Sometimes they help with school functions or conduct campaigns like Harvest for Hunger.
Our middle school students help younger children at the end of the school day with organization of backpacks and preparation to go home. At the end of the eighth grade, students spend one week serving the community at local Head Start centers, food banks and retirement centers.
We try to leave students with a lasting impression that it is their duty and responsibility to “give back.” Children must grow in awareness that they are part of a whole. The blessings and benefits they enjoy in life have been generated by people and institutions. Gratitude must follow, and to whatever degree possible, the child should learn to demonstrate their gratitude.