Sometimes, it seems like herding cats – Developing Leadership in Students

Like many of you, especially those of you who work at independent schools, you are asked to do a variety of different tasks. In my case, in addition to the responsibilities as the Director of Academic Technology (teaching one class per year, working with teachers to develop and deliver individual professional development plans, working with classes of students and teachers as they acquire the discrete sets of technology skills), I am a student adviser, I am the person responsible for creating our High School Master Schedule, I am one of the co-founders of our Middle School and High School Science Olympiad teams, and for the past four years, I am the adviser to our school’s yearbook, the Mirror. YearbookCover

At our school, the yearbook is an extra-curricular project. When I started four years ago, my editorial team and staff were one in the same, six outstanding seniors who were amongst the most active students at the school, involved in athletics, the dramatic productions, and many other outstanding opportunities that we provide for our students.

Although we have been more successful in growing the program by increasing the number of staff members who apprentice as underclassman, at this time our leadership team is comprised of seniors who are interested in telling the story and documenting the year, but do not have any previous experience with a project of this magnitude and importance.

This year, in addition to the lack of experience in the process, the leaders that I am working with are from three distinct groups. Part of the challenge at the beginning is to build a cohesive team that is able to work together able be able to tell a story from one common voice. I find it challenging to have the students leave strip away their biases and agendas when they enter the room.

Experience and failure are great motivators. There are five distinct deadlines that our plant requires us to meet, the first fairly light and then increasing in intensity. This year, I have opted to let the students fall short of the requirements expected in the deadline. It was during the adrenaline filled last three days that the realized the level of commitment required of the position. Now that we have come short, I believe theyare poised to accept the challenge ahead of them.

I wonder what strategies that others in similar positions employ in similar situations to mold a cohesive team of students ready to tackle a challenge such as this?

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