In the Center for Leadership (CFL) we focus on developing skills and mindsets that will serve students throughout life. Part of that is helping students see goals beyond graduation and college. We want them to reflect on dimensions of their lives not captured on their transcripts. How will they develop a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead?
The CFL team met with small groups of Upper School students to ask them these questions. Their feedback inspired the launch of the Leadership Journal being piloted in the 9th grade. The primary goal of the Leadership Journal is to create a time and place for private, personal reflection. Students will gain insight into themselves and their growth when they pause and consider the ways they are becoming ethical, empathetic people who are able to impact and improve their communities.
With that loose concept in mind, we turned the actual development of the Leadership Journal over to four CFL interns: Nicole Ayoub ‘21, Kayleigh Bowler ‘20, Will Thomas ‘21, and Chris Walsh ‘20. “The very first time we met to work on it, we just talked about what could be in it,” said Will. “We were constantly going around with different ideas of what could be included— service, characteristics of a leader, things we’d like to do, positions we may have had. Listening to the other people in the group helped me think about the things that I’ve done. Working together was the most important part of building the journals.”
Kayleigh, Will and Nicole teaching the CFL's Leadership Journal mini-course.
The student team used Google Sites to create prototype Leadership Journals reflecting on their own leadership experiences. The team then asked me if they could lead the teaching of the ninth-grade students. “After creating the journals, we really felt like we had the best insights to teach other kids to do it,” said Nicole. “We were so dedicated to it and thought that a student-to-student teaching experience could be really valuable.”
The students were given go-ahead and led the teaching of the entire freshman class during a three-session Leadership Journal mini-course. Now every 9th-grade student has a Leadership Journal that will evolve with their leadership experiences throughout their Upper School years.
Students brainstorm during the Leadership Journal mini-course.
Chris relayed a great story about his teaching experience. A visiting faculty member from our partner school Dong Chang High School in Shanghai, China happened to observe Chris teaching peers how to create a Leadership Journal. Our visitor was apparently astounded asking: “You’re a student, but you’re teaching the class? What are you? A student? A teacher?” Chris said, “I was really humbled that he thought I was an actual teacher.”
Kayleigh also sounded like an "actual teacher" when she shared how very rewarding it is to help someone learn something essential: “What really struck me was how high school is such a time of major upheaval—everything is changing. Being able to deliver a program that helps them to stop and think about how they want to lead their communities and how they want to lead their lives was really impactful for me.”
Faculty members and I took a supporting role in the student-led class.
Gareth Fancher, St. Luke’s Director of Emotional Intelligence, is currently using journaling practices with some Middle School classes. In his view, student leaders are not overestimating the potential of the Leadership Journals: “Journaling is an extremely effective method of observing and inspiring your own development,” he said. “It’s a simple but powerful way to consider your own growth, see where you struggle and connect the dots on your experiences.”
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