According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers ranked leadership as the most important skill they wanted to see on college graduates’ resumes.
Perhaps they were influenced by leadership guru, John Maxwell, who wrote, “The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.”
Roycemore students learn that leadership takes many forms. As an intentionally small school, there are many opportunities to lead at Roycemore, whether in leadership by title or leadership by deed. Our students gain an understanding of the power of their voice in offering opinions and direction, in their buying decisions, and in their actions. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which is used as a leadership framework schoolwide, offers common language for daily leadership experiences, including positive peer pressure or persuasion, aka “social influence.”
Beginning in the Early Childhood Division, children learn how to lead through daily opportunities to direct morning meetings. Students are assigned classroom “jobs” such as reading the morning message in front of the entire class, demonstrating the calendar days, sharing the weather, or serving as line leaders. During “show and tell” each child leads their own presentation by emphasizing three important points and then calls on friends to respond. Social influence is emphasized through multiple classroom games and activities that students play like Art Studio where children anonymously choose drawings by a classmate and compliment them on different aspects of the picture they like. Modeling kind behaviors and “filling buckets” (or sharing something positive about a classmate) is done daily through exercises and activities.
As students progress to the Lower School they continue to develop their leadership abilities and learn the power of their voice. Third grade students participate in a “Wax Museum” project where they select, research and write about an individual who has used their voice to make a difference in the world. They then “become” that individual as part of a Wax Museum and present to their classmates, teachers and parents with a focus on analyzing how that person helped make the world a better place and persevered through challenges.
As the oldest students in the Lower School, Fourth Graders receive the privilege of leading the Lower School Morning Meeting each week, which takes great planning. They recognize students throughout the Lower School for their leadership qualities in line with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. They encourage younger students to follow community norms and expectations through leading by example. And they learn to be an Upstander instead of a Bystander, using their voice to stand up for others.
Whether in Lower School or Middle School, in French class students gain the opportunity to practice leadership skills by helping one another. Students are often called on to help translate instructions for the class. If a student is struggling, they might be paired with a student that has mastered the particular skill, which provides advanced students opportunities to practice leadership while also aiding a classmate.
Middle School students participate in Homeroom each morning by grade level when leadership topics are addressed. A recent lesson involved students discussing the qualities that they valued in a friend. They considered a hypothetical scenario of what they might do if a friend confided in them that they cheated on a test. After the students picked their response, they discussed the topic as a whole class. The next day students extended the discussion to include the qualities that they personally offered as a friend. A goal was to see if all students exhibited the prized quality and what the impact might be on the whole community.
Throughout a student’s time in Middle School there are regular opportunities for students to master leadership qualities and learn about the power of their voice. In group assignments, each student benefits from the opportunity to serve as the leader of the group as opposed to just defaulting to someone who would volunteer to lead. Works of literature are intentionally selected to offer occasions for students to learn from ancient and modern examples of leadership, including role models who used their voice for positive change. Each year students are selected to participate in the Illinois Holocaust and Education Center’s Student Leadership Day to deepen their understanding of leadership.
There are also fun leadership experiences. For example, eighth grade students serve as leaders of their cross-grade level House groups for fun, friendly, “Harry Potteresque” House competitions.
As students progress to Roycemore’s Upper School, there are avenues for them to further hone their leadership skills. They begin to think about life after high school. College Counselor, Mauricio Robert, often encourages students to think about what they can do to stand out as leaders in their school community or to reflect on how they can best use their skills to fill in gaps that they might recognize. As the most competitive college students are those that are able to recognize how they can use their skills to help bring about meaningful change in schools and societies, the four years in high school provide occasions for students to lead in new and exciting ways.
Leadership experience is advanced both in the classroom and through extra-curricular activities. Students are encouraged to take on leadership roles in small groups or clubs so as to develop their leadership talents as well as strengthen their interpersonal skills which in turn influence others. The Class of 2021 demonstrated this through the creation of Diversity Panel Discussions among other activities that benefited our community.
Warren Bennis, widely considered to be the father of leadership studies, once said, “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” At Roycemore, we recognize that leadership development must be an intentional part of our practice. We have dedicated ourselves to ensuring that is a commitment that we keep.