Developing Student Leaders

You can only imagine the different types of conversations that happen on the last day of school.  Teachers are squaring away their grade books, getting their rooms ready for summer cleaning, and preparing for some well deserved rest.  As principal I have the pleasure of saying a last goodbye before each teacher heads out for their summer adventures, and last year I had a conversation that would eventually change the mindset of our campus.  The conversation was a short one.  I would like to tell you that I knew that the simple act of passing along a good book would have such a profound impact, however at the time I just thought I was providing a friend with a good summer read.  I have always been passionate about student leadership; I have long believed that one of the many responsibilities a teacher has is to help their students become self-directed in both learning and academic habits.  It was exactly this area that this teacher was talking about and when they mentioned the power that student leaders had on a classroom I reached over to my bookshelf and grabbed The Leader in Me.  This book chronicles the efforts of a turnaround school in North Carolina that embraced Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and brought that message to A.B. Combs Elementary School.  A low performing, seemingly directionless school became a beacon of public education in the state all by adopting a student leadership mentality.  Long story short, a quick conversation on the last day of school plus a book loan has developed into a mission for our Condit staff.  By the time teachers reported to campus in August student leadership was the buzz, particularly what one teacher was going to do this year.  She was all in, and a quick stop to her classroom was all the evidence you needed.  Teachers couldn’t wait to stop by and hear about her plans for the school year.  The funny thing about great ideas is they spread.  Quickly.  You would be hard pressed to walk our school and not find evidence of our early efforts to grow our student leaders.  When it was time to look at titles for our staff book study it was no surprise that The Leader in Me was selected.  By time the students arrived on the first day of school a significant shift had occurred on our campus, in addition to the goal of academic excellence our school had quickly adopted another important purpose, developing student leaders.   Just a few weeks into school it is evident these ideas have taken root.  I have kindergarteners stopping me in the hallway to talk to me about the ways they are being proactive.  Heck, I have parents stopping me in the hallway to tell me how they are being proactive! I look forward to watching our burgeoning leaders flourish.  Perhaps most of all, I look forward to my conversations on the last day of school this year.