Creating Student Leaders

With the youth being the backbone of society, your students must be prepared for the demands and challenges of leading an ever-changing world. After all, no one is too young to lead.

For example, student activist Zyahna Bryant organized her first demonstration at the age of 12 by posting homemade signs against police violence, leading to the removal of the last Confederate monument in Virginia. There’s also Zak Malamed who started Student Voice, an international coalition that advocates for student-driven solutions to educational inequity, when he was a high school senior.

To create student leaders, however, schools must cultivate this skill within their students. Below are ways you can get them to step up to leadership roles.

Create classroom leadership opportunities

Before you encourage your students to show leadership qualities outside, equip them first with leadership opportunities inside the classroom. You can give them ownership of their learning journey by letting them suggest an activity, a topic, or a teaching method appropriate for their needs and interests. This won’t simply allow them to take control in the classroom, but also build accountability and confidence within them, evaluating themselves objectively while knowing that their opinion matters.

student leader

Additionally, you can employ project-based learning (PBL), just like Pear Tree Elementary in Canada does. This learner-centered method involves students investigating and solving real-life questions to gain knowledge. Done in collaborative groups, PBL will motivate them to assign and claim roles within a group, becoming more involved in their learning process while managing themselves and each other and gaining authentic experiences.

Encourage extra-curricular participation

Being a leader also entails gaining the skills for communication, public speaking, and event organization. These can be fostered through participation in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. And you can take inspiration from schools around the globe. Bridge International Academies, who have schools across Africa, actively encourages their students to get involved in extracurricular activities, such as debate sessions, drama and cultural displays, as well as dance competitions. By providing activities beyond the classroom, students take a more active role in discovering their interests and honing their skills.

If your school has a student council or some peer groups, you can convince potential student leaders to run for a position as well. Moreover, if you have a specific interest yourself, like drumming or film criticism, you can start a group and motivate like-minded students to join you. Give them chances to conduct meetings or plan projects, with your guidance.

Lead by example

By nature, teachers are leaders. Aside from leading your students every day, you also inevitably take on additional responsibilities outside the classroom. For instance, Sally Schultz, a middle school teacher from Knox Middle School, was recently invited to join the Teacher Leadership Council in the US. She will be given an opportunity to lead her community and implement educational initiatives.

10 Social Skills for Student Leaders (Student Leadership Series)

However, that side of the profession is not always directly seen by your students. As such, the best way to drive them towards leadership is by letting them see it in action. Model the traits you want to see in your students, such as responsible decision-making, active listening, and strategic thinking. You can even tap other student-leaders for help!

With online classes ongoing, you may need to modify some aspects of these tips before implementing them. With enough research and creativity though, you can curate them to fit your future student leaders. In fact, if you need any creative suggestions for your classroom, feel free to explore Bright Classroom Ideas for some inspiration.

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Riley Anne Jackson is a teaching consultant who provides guidance to schools across the country. Through her online articles, she hopes to share her twelve years of experience to help schools and teachers improve key areas of education. When she’s not working, she is running after her energetic 4-year-old son.


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