In October, twenty 5th-8th grade CSISD students showed up at our Transportation Center to learn about and apply leadership skills. The students would learn to identify campus needs, motivate teams to address those needs and complete a project (including writing grants and budgeting).
I expected students to learn a lot. And they did. As one student put it, "This was so much more than I expected it would be."
What I did not expect was how much I learned.
It Takes a Team
Sure, I knew this. I had even applied this thinking throughout my career. But always as a team member, not a team LEADER. I learned the value of delegation- not as well as I could have, but it is a progress. I learned that the best thing a leader can do is identify the strengths of their team, and find ways to empower the team to use those strengths. I saw the power of a team that knew they were believed in, and how encouragement was contagious. When one person showed up with a fire for the day, it spread quickly. I learned the value of opposing ideas. Not that we argued on our LEADS team- but we did have different opinions on how to do things. Sometimes it went as I planned, sometimes the team had better ideas and we went with them. That empowered us all.
Play is Important
We started each day with team building. Usually the action was physical- obstacle courses or spaghetti towers, or lifting hula hoops. Not only did starting with this raise energy levels, it raised engagement and relationship levels. The play also gave students an example of what the day's goal for leadership was. Sometimes it was even planned to be that way.
As educators, it is easy to take ourselves too seriously.
We don't always have to.
Change Where You Are
In my life, I have often found that when change is difficult where you are, it is easier to find a new place. These student Ambassadors showed me that change where are now is not only possible, it is preferential. They sought to change their campus culture, even though they would only be there for a year- or less- of the change's installation. They did not look around and say "I could make this change easier someplace else," they endured and made the change where they are.
As an educator, I love to look for new and better ways to do things. Sometimes it changes easily, sometimes it is hard. Sometimes there is resistance. My student's greatest lesson to me this year was to develop a willingness to stand when it is tough, to stick with something rather than to look for a way out.
It is this last lesson I want to challenge my fellow educators with. Maybe the culture where you are is not good- and leaving is what you want to do. Maybe you desire to change your role- seek administration or more leadership roles but the opportunities are not at your current campus? But ask yourself these two questions- "Who will take care of my kids when I am gone? and "Can I make a difference where I am and still grow as an educator?" Maybe the answers to these questions let you feel released to move on- maybe they do not. Maybe they give you freedom to choose either solution.
I cannot tell you what the correct answer to those questions are for you.
But I can process what the answers are for me thanks to my LEADS team.
I teach Psychology, Sociology, World History Honors and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team, sponsor the TED Ed Club, and I am the Lead Innovator for LEADS CSISD (A student leadership empowerment program for 5th-8th graders). I am an aspiring administrator.