"I've Been Thinking About" - Our Students as Leaders

I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT…OUR STUDENTS AS LEADERS January, 2014

As we are in the full thrust of our recruitment and retention season, I am in conversation not only with current and prospective families, but our alumni too as they aid us in the process. When I speak with the alumni, I am struck by their poise and confidence. That’s something that stands out to me even in young adults – their ability to speak eloquently to their former teachers, adults they don’t know, and me – a principal they never had. These are certainly qualities that we hope for in all young adults, and yet I have worked with so many over the years that I know it’s not automatic. These qualities make me think about leadership. We talk about our students as leaders – but what does that mean? Being a student leader is more than being involved in student council as a middle school student, though that is certainly one wonderful leadership opportunity, as is being a captain of our basketball team, or one of the older students in the musical.

On Monday, I took our 8th graders to Harrisburg for day of service and fun with the Silver Academy students with whom we are going to Israel. While on the bus, I asked them what comes to mind when I use the words “students” and “leadership” (I did not plant these). Here were the first two:

• 8th Grade at Kellman Brown Academy • Younger students look up to you as their role model, and you want to be a good role model.

I believe that the everyday learning activities here at KBA help instill leadership qualities that we see in our alumni – confidence, poise, and teamwork. From a very young age students can be found around school leading others in Tefillah, visiting Lion’s Gate and performing for elderly residents. They make allocation decisions at our Mitzvah Mall, give presentations in class, read to adults during Author’s night, they teach and read to younger students, meet and interview politicians, and the list goes on. Are some of these also mitzvot that we are going to do because we’re a Jewish school? Yes. Are some of them indicative of what it means to be a mensch? Absolutely. Should these activities be found in any quality school? Definitely.

So what makes our students and alumni stand out as leaders? The acts of leading tefillot, presenting in front of others, debating each other over important issues are continuous throughout the curriculum. Students learn to advocate for themselves with their teachers. They learn how to be articulate and self-confident in their class presentations.

I did a little searching online for leadership qualities and everywhere from Forbes to Inc.com, ‘communication’ and ‘confidence’ are on the lists. These skills will no doubt be important and useful as our students graduate, go on to high school, college, and beyond. And yet, we are constantly striving to do more for and with our students, particularly as leaders. The Student Ambassador Program is one example. We introduced this new project to 5th-8th graders on our “Be A 6th Grader For A Day,” and it will be officially kicked off next year as students will be trained to speak about and articulate what they love and know about Kellman Brown Academy to potential families, younger students, and any visitors.

What other ideas do you have? What leadership qualities have you seen your child(ren) develop? What other qualities do you hope they will continue to gain? I look forward to hearing what you’ve been thinking – ecook@kellmanbrownacademy.org.