Students Today – Leaders Tomorrow

I want you to visualize something.  Close your eyes and imagine a classroom………..

 

Scenario #1: All the students are sitting at desks in rows looking at the back of each other’s heads. The teacher is in the traditional spot at the front of the room. There is a Power Point on the board and instruction is being provided in lecture style format. The predominant voice is the instructor’s. The students dutifully sit at their desks and take notes because they know how to “play the game of school”.  There is minimal movement and even less conversation.

 

Scenario #2: The desks are arranged in “pods” or groups of 4-6. The teacher is nowhere to be found at first glance. One must look closely to find her/him walking around or sitting with the various groups of students. The predominant voices are those of the students talking and learning with each other.  It is an extremely active environment with multiple conversations happening at once.

 

Which classroom is developing and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders?  

 

What is a leader?

 

My definition of a leader is someone who is a listener, a thinker, an inquirer, a risk-taker, resilient, and imagines what could be possible while empowering and inspiring others.

 

As educators, how are we creating tomorrow’s leaders in today’s classrooms?  Which character traits do we encourage and celebrate?  Do all students believe they can be leaders? Do you tell your thinkers, listeners and seemingly “quiet” students they are leaders?

 

As educators, we need to break the traditional definition of what a leader is thought to be.

 

  • Male or female?
  • Adult or child?
  • Introvert or extrovert?
  • Speaker or listener?  

 

When you hear the word leader, what image or name immediately pops into your head? How is that belief transferred to your students?

 

As I thought about this, I decided to reach out to fellow PLN members and some of my students for their thoughts. The responses I received were inspiring, thoughtful and empowering.

 

  • Someone who never gives up and is responsible for their actions. They are a true role model to people and make people want to listen to them because they make such a good impact on people’s lives.”  8th grade student

 

  • A leader is someone who influences a group of people to do a good or even maybe a bad thing.8th grade student

 

  • Someone who people look up to, and sets a good example for others.8th grade student

 

  • “Influenced. Makes leadership attainable, not positional.” @heffrey

 

  • “ Student leaders are collaborative, curious, independent, and confident.” @JayBilly2

 

  • “A leader empowers others to individually and collectively rise to their fullest potential.” @burgessdave

 

  • “They never stop learning, inspiring, supporting, questioning, they lead by example and they empower others.” @itsmeSpiri

 

  • “A leader is grounded in knowledge, curiosity, and open-minded flexibility to continuously ask and ponder questions leading us all on a never-ending quest toward PATHWAYS OF POSSIBILITIES.” @DrMaryHoward

 

  • “Leaders find, foster and flourish the gifts in others, so they may go and illuminate the world.” @LaVonnaRoth

 

  • “A leader is someone who doesn’t need a title, who honors where people are in their own growth, and who scaffolds appropriately.”  @bethhill2829

 

  • “A leader is someone who inspires action through their vision and uplifts others around them.” @AmyHeavin

 

  • “We are all leaders in one way or another, we can either use our leadership potential or not.”  @drneilgupta

 

How do we provide scaffolds in fostering student leadership? How do we nurture the above mentioned traits?

 

I believe it begins in a student centered classroom.

 

Student Centered Classrooms

 

Student centered classrooms may have multiple descriptions. Students need to learn more than the content and curriculum. They need to learn how to interact with others in a collaborative environment.

 

Is your environment and/or instruction reflected in the following descriptions?

 

Ownership of  the Learning Environment

 

It is our classroom. The priority is creating a safe, secure, comfortable space. (Need a pencil? They go in my drawers and locate one.) . I change my furniture based on my lessons or student requests. (Studying Anne Frank? Create the Secret Annex.)

 

Teachers and Learners

 

Everyone is a teacher and learner.  I am more than willing to take a seat in the class and learn from my students. Sometimes planned, but often times not. (Examples to share? Why don’t you go up to the document camera and teach us. Students write catchy “hooks” in their essays? Teach a small group.)

 

Wall Space

 

I consider our walls “living”. They are covered with relevant, often student requested anchor charts and resources to support independent learning. (Need a resource for later? Take a picture.)  Student artwork is proudly displayed, particularly in the book corner, a favorite place to hang out, work or read. (Buying posters from the store is virtually unheard of now.)

 

Building Relationships

 

Some might find it odd, but I have few personal objects, photos, etc. Reason? It opens up discussions between my students and I. They have to engage in conversation with me and ask questions in order to get to know me. Building rapport and establishing relationships is everything!

 

Teaching Collaboration

 

Students need to learn how to problem solve, respectfully disagree and stand up for their beliefs.  This does not always happen naturally, in fact most of the time it needs to be taught. They need supported opportunities to role play and practice.

 

As @ShiftParadigm said: “In education, a classroom is either a place where all students learn well all of the time, or not. If you want the former to happen, then classroom and everything else must revolve around student learning.”

 

Final Thought
We are preparing students for life as citizens of a global community. They need to be problem solvers, risk takers, inquirers, collaborative, reflective and confident individuals. We can help build that foundation.  I challenge you to think about how you will provide the necessary skills and strategies for building tomorrow’s leaders…..today.

 


Today’s guest blog is written byTeresa Gross, a passionate life long learner  and middle school literacy teacher in New York.