The end of October always coincides with the celebration of Halloween. This is an annual tradition at Matthews Hall with costume parades, a full-school assembly, and a day filled with special activities for children. This year was no different as the students and staff (…and even some parents!) joined in the fun led by our Middle School students and supported by our enthusiastic teachers.
Should students be able to lead an event-filled day like Halloween? Why not. Every day, millions of 11- to 14-year-old students walk through the doors of Middle Schools with anticipation and great hopes for their future. There are many student leaders capable of spearheading schoolwide events.
Every student has the potential to be a leader, and we as their teachers and administrators have the responsibility to establish a school climate that nurtures their growth as self-sufficient, engaged citizens. We also have the responsibility to develop their leadership skills without hovering over their every action.
Adults sometimes doubt the readiness of young adolescents to be leaders—or perhaps they are apprehensive about what will happen if they share the mantle of leadership with students. That concern ignores one of the key attributes of effective middle schools: effective middle school programs empower students and provide them with the knowledge and skills to take the reins and lead by example.
Social psychologists define leadership as “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” Isn’t this a skill we would like all our Matthews Hall students to have? When our students have the opportunity to lead, they become architects of their futures and change agents in their schools and communities.
Providing all students with leadership opportunities helps them grow into responsible adults. If we want students to work in partnership with adults, we must give them the opportunities to develop leadership skills—skills that allow them to manage time, work as a team, set goals, solve problems, facilitate meetings, defend positions, and make effective presentations. In other words, we must help them develop effective life skills.
Watching this week’s assembly and day of activities unfold as the direct result of student planning and leadership was gratifying.
When youth leadership is central to a school’s culture, the following attributes are apparent:
- Opportunities for credible relationships exist among students, teachers, and administrators.
- Young leaders are given opportunities to execute their decisions and be agents of change.
- Students co-develop, maintain, and are accountable for inclusive and respectful climates in their classrooms and schools.
- Adults model the attitudes, skills, and efforts required of leadership and provide opportunities to empower youth to be leaders.
These are the very goals we have for our Middle School students at Matthews Hall.
Ric Anderson, Head of School