In today’s workforce, it is essential to be able to collaborate and work cooperatively with peers and colleagues. In the classroom, there will always be students who dread working in groups, claiming, they “work best alone” or that they are never put with “good” students. There will be some, however, who thrive on group work, and may at times appear as natural leaders to their peers. These are students who are motivated by power, people, and prestige: they enjoy working with others, being in charge, and want to feel needed (Lavoie, 2007). According to Lavoie (2007), leadership includes:
– listening to everyone
– being able to bring out the best in others
– protecting and defending the group
– knowing where and how to find answers
– teaching and enhancing others’ independence
– willing to accept both glory and blame
Of course, as teachers, we have to be leaders and set a good example in our students, but why not teach and model these values so that all students will leave school knowing how to effectively collaborate with others and be leaders?
Today, corporate leaders want and need skills and competence in a variety of areas, including personal competence (self-awareness, adaptability, initiative, optimism) and social competence (empathy, creating change, conflict management, teamwork, collaboration) (Covey, 2014, p.31). Parents seem to agree with this, as they want their children to be fluent with technology, have good global, analytical, and life skills, as well as keep their cultural values (p.25).
Therefore, it seems that it is time to incorporate leadership skills and values in students in school. It can start as simple as one lesson per week, such as teaching students group roles and their responsibilities, and it can expand to a school-wide culture of leadership, like at A.B. Combs Magnet Elementary School.
Another way to start teaching leadership skills to your students is to introduce to them the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
- Be Proactive: take responsibility for their actions, acknowledge mistakes rather than blaming others / making excuses, show initiative, and remain in charge of their emotions.
- Begin with the end in mind: have dreams, have a plan for their lives / projects they are working on, and focus on making meaningful contributions.
- Put first things first: focus time and effort on things that are most important, avoid time wasters, find time for planning and recreation, and say no to distractions.
- Think win-win: have the courage to stand up for themselves while respecting others, seek mutual benefit, say no to harmful situations.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood: listen to others’ feelings, avoid prejudgments, be open to input, learn how to express and present themselves confidently.
- Synergize: be able to work with others, value others’ strengths, manage conflicts effectively, be creative.
- Sharpen the saw: caring for their physical, mental, and emotional well-being, developing new skills.
(Covey, 2014, p.213)
I cannot stress the importance of goal-setting in relation to instilling leadership skills. When students make goals for themselves and are able to monitor them, they see exactly where they are in their learning, where they need to be, and what they need to do to get there. Keeping students organized and proactive as well as teaching them how to interact cooperatively and effectively with others will help their motivation, focus, and allow them to take ownership in their learning. Keep checking back for a follow-up post to this one on my experiences with goal-setting in the classroom, as well as posts on how to increase student motivation and responsibility.
Covey, S.T. (2008/2014). The Leader in Me. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Lavoie, R. (2007). The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child. New York, NY: Touchstone.