Friday, March 22, 2013

Lee Fertig on Leadership Development at Graded

Cross posted in the Graded Gazette

Leadership Development
Many Graded students, teachers, and parents had the opportunity to participate in this week’s Global Symposium, Women Changing Brazil, sponsored by Barnard College. On Wednesday, we were fortunate to have Barnard students and administrators on campus conducting a series of workshops with high school students from Graded and several other international schools in the São Paulo area. I had the opportunity to meet with these Barnard College officials and we ended up talking a lot about leadership and how educational institutions empower young adults to become effective leaders. And this prompted my thinking about how we do this here at Graded…

What does leadership development look like at Graded? Does the school have one concrete model that includes a curricular focus on leadership, different leadership opportunities for students, special age-appropriate resources, and multiple assessments of leadership activity? No, not really. We do not utilize anything so formal and structured. Nevertheless, people from outside of the school community are constantly telling me how impressed they are with the manner in which Graded students have a leadership presence in a wide variety of activities. Our students were recently commended for being some of the best delegates at the HACIA Democracy and Model United Nations events. A school administrator from an international school in the mid-East commented on how impressed he was with Graded students at the recent AMIS music festival in Dubai. Graded students were the ones who organized the recent Fashion for Community event. Even the Barnard College representatives noticed how astute and active Graded students were in the dialogue at this week’sWomen Changing Brazil symposium. And leadership is not just about individuals speaking and performing in front of others. To empower others with more of a “behind-the-scenes” approach is equally effective: teaching skills to others for their own advancement, implementing organizational structures that enhance the work of others, and giving constructive feedback to peers and colleagues are a few other ways in which authentic leadership manifests itself.

Where does this come from? How do Graded students acquire these characteristics, especially if there is no formal training program? The Graded Experience is filled with numerous opportunities to engage in different types of leadership behavior, activities that encourage students to take some risks and learn along the way. This happens in so many extracurricular activities, but it also takes place within classrooms on a daily basis. Students are constantly being asked to engage in tasks that contribute to effective leadership. So, even though we would probably benefit from being even more intentional about developing strong leadership in our children, it is obvious that much of this is already happening organically. In some respects, this should not come as a surprise to anyone… Graded’s mission does challenge us to empower students to become “engaged, ethical citizens in a dynamic world.” The Graded Experience, by its very nature, is doing just that.

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