Today is the final day of the Young Leaders academy here at the camp and so I think it’s time for a bit of reflection on how the past 5 weeks have gone. It’s been quite an experience, and an opportunity to do something unique and special from the standard language teaching I am used to. If you had told me, even two years ago, that I would be teaching a leadership class here at the camp I wouldn’t have believed you. A year ago, upon arrival, I was told without warning that I would run a club class in the late afternoons on global issues and leadership. I had no clue where or how to start. Now, looking back I can honestly say that it was one of the best things that happened in my teaching career so far. A challenge was handed to me, in which I had no experience in, and I decided instinctively that I would take it on and the rewards have been astounding.
A learning curve
I have been pleasantly surprised at the eagerness of the students who have attended the young leader’s academy this year. A lot of them showed a passion on the issues we discussed, and were very opinionated as well. On some days the class was buzzing with anticipation and students seemed genuinely happy to be there and participate in the class. It was clear that they wanted to be there and learn from their fellow classmates, as well as gain some insight on a topic, of which they were not very knowledgeable on previously.
With that said, we’ve also had some struggles too. Not everyone had that intrinsic motivation that is so vital in a class like this. Having a certain level of English also allows for maximum contribution and input from students and so if their English was on the lower end they might have struggled a bit here. If parents sign their kids up for the class it doesn’t necessarily mean that their kids are going to want to be there and so you are battling some resistance there which is hard at times to overcome.
But the beauty here is that fellow classmates can be a teacher’s allies in getting the non-believers to jump on board and embrace what we are doing. And so, it’s fair to say, that by the end of each week’s lessons/seminars we had some converted skeptics, which was awesome! It’s a trick we teachers should practice perfecting in our classroom – How to get a number of student-allies on your side. Those ‘allies’ of their own free will, are going to encourage or persuade their skeptical classmates to join in and participate. It’s about inspiration not information. No easy task I’m afraid. Only experimenting with different techniques and approaches can we find that right delivery which will inspire our students. This leadership class offered an opportunity to do just that.
Change and taking action
How do we inspire our students, or just anyone for that matter? If you want to be a leader, you want to bring change, how will you bring that change, and inspire people to change with you? I asked my students and they had some ideas but nothing concrete. So here goes, it takes action, you got to take action but most importantly, you can inspire through stories. Stories move people, we love stories, and it’s a story that makes us seek relationships with people, to join a tribe, or relate to an experience that a person has had similar to ours. If you want to move people, a story is a strong tool that accompanied by action is a one-two knockout punch. Boom! You got ‘em. I shared Brian Roses’ TED talk on this. Brian’s talk on his journey, is hands down one of the most inspirational stories on YouTube. I encourage anyone out there to take ten minutes and watch. The themes covered are what leadership is all about my friends. Resistance, fear, earning it, advice and ultimately the change we seek.
Change in education
The biggest hurdle for our class was the project I assigned them at the end of the week. I noticed how the students really struggled with teamwork and collaboration. So that is something that I will improve on for next time and I already have a few team building activities up my sleeve for next year. It was something that I didn’t anticipate but realize now what an integral part of leadership it is. We have to be collaborators, teammates, classmates, co-workers, friends and that means working with others in mutual respect and trust, listening and exchanging ideas. Unfortunately our schools encourage students to work on their own and ignore collaboration which is very detrimental to their growth as human beings because collaboration is such an essential ingredient in achieving success. Success comes with the help of others. You need a tribe, you need cooperation to make progress and achieve success, every leader should know that. My students need more of this. They are so used to giving power point presentations with just information. But that is not leadership. That’s what you do in school but that is not going to bring change.
If you want to lead and bring change, then YOU need to take action and show people how much you care and what YOU are going to do about it. Not the government, not the politician, not a friend you know who has influence, no. Find the people who believe what you believe, seek out those people who want the change you seek. Take action, share your story and boom, a movement, a tribe is born and growing. It’s up to you, no excuses. You don’t need to be in a position of authority to be a leader, fifteen year-olds can be leaders too, I promise you.
As I kept hammering home that message, the presentations week to week got better and better. But there is still plenty of work to be done, and that’s exciting….
A journey of a thousand miles, starts with one single step. –Brian Rose (London Real podcast)