Mythbusters: Lead From Here Edition
This is a guest blog from third grade instructor, Jennifer Baccus
A few weeks ago, I was watching the show MythBusters with my son. If you have never watched the show, the two hosts take a commonly held misconception or urban legend and go through as many steps needed to “bust” whatever the particular myth may be. This gave me the inspiration I needed to write this guest post, since I have heard quite a few myths regarding Ravenscroft’s work with Lead from Here that I believe need busting.
Myth 1: Lower School students cannot possibly understand words and concepts like motivated, accountable, growth minded, and culturally inclusive.
Busted: They can and they do! About a week after a Lower School Tree Talk that focused on the Leading Self competency “accountable,” several of my third-grade students were working together to record themselves reading a Reader’s Theater story. I took them to the conference room beside Mrs. Stapleton’s office so they could record without interruption from their classmates. I left them to get started and went back to check on the rest of my students. When I returned, I stopped outside the room and listened. It was obvious that they were a bit off task. Just as I was about to go in and intervene, one student stepped up and said, “Hey guys, Mrs. Baccus is counting on us to do our work. We have to be accountable.” A few months later, that same student wrote an end-of-quarter reflection in which he commented that he was working on being personally accountable for remembering when to go to his piano lesson every week without being reminded.
If we give children the language of leadership and let them have moments in which they can experience it, we are giving them the gift of a skill set that many adults do not have.
Myth 2: Not everyone can be a leader. Does Ravenscroft seriously think every graduate will be a CEO because of Lead From Here?
Busted: This is actually a direct quote from my own internal monologue during the opening of school faculty meeting in 2011 when we were told that Ravenscroft was going to be partnering with the Center for Creative Leadership. I truly scoffed at the notion of “everyone can be a leader.” Seriously? Yes, seriously. Not everyone can be class president, but everyone can be a leader in some way. We need to teach our children that families need leaders, churches and synagogues need leaders. Neighborhoods, classrooms, and lunch tables need leaders. I think the name of our initiative says it all; everyone can lead from “here,” wherever here is. Even if that is simply leading yourself to make good decisions during a difficult moment. We teach our Lower School students what this feels like and looks like through experiential lessons and then connecting those lessons to real life situations.
Teachers also look for ways to help students identify citizen leaders in the stories and nonfiction texts that they read. Second grade teacher Jessalyn Crawford shared this story with me recently: “While reading with a student, she was able to use the Lead From Here framework and competencies to characterize one of the main characters in her story. When I asked her to describe the characteristics of the little boy in the story, she responded with how ‘self-aware’ the little boy was in a potentially dangerous situation.”
Observing the competencies that we are teaching, whether it be in a favorite fictional character or a hometown hero featured in the local news, gives our students opportunities to see that leadership in action in everyday real life ways.
Myth 3: Lead From Here is an “add on.” It is taking away from academic instruction.
Busted: This could not possibly be farther from the truth. On the contrary, Lead From Here enhances academic instruction at Ravenscroft. All of our work with Lead From Here is in direct service to the Ravenscroft mission of “preparing students to thrive in a complex and interdependent world.” The more I learn about the competencies that we are teaching our students, and quite frankly that I am learning myself, the more I question how we can expect our students to succeed academically and in life without these competencies firmly in place.
Probably one of the most important competencies in the Leading Self circle of our framework is “motivated.” As a parent of two current Upper School students, I can tell you that it is pretty difficult to experience success without motivation at Ravenscroft. It is hard to be growth-minded and resilient if you are not motivated to grow, change, and get better at what you are doing. The teachers in all three divisions are being trained to help students internalize the Lead From Here competencies in order to help them find whatever personally motivates them as individuals. They are helping students learn how to recognize when they are experiencing a growth opportunity, how to push through the challenge, and come out stronger and smarter than they started.
Motivation is also what ignites the fires of creative problem solving in our students. Eileen Price currently has a group of students who have been moved and motivated to change their world. She says, “My fourth-grade girls have started a club called Girls Can. They were inspired by a story I told them about research showing girls are not encouraged to build, which inhibits their spatial acuity, which is a factor in girls not choosing math and science fields in later years. On their own, they have planned, recruited, and are doing this at their homes over the summer.” It is clear to me that this work we are doing is mission central. These students we are raising together are going to make a difference in the world because we are equipping them with 21st-century skills and giving them the space to do so while they are still in Lower School.
In order for our work with Lead From Here to continue to grow we need to bust as many of these myths as possible. Please take the time to leave a comment if you have heard any other myths about Lead From Here that may need busting. I would also encourage you to talk to your child’s teacher or to a member of our Lower School Leadership Team if you have any further questions or stories you would like to share.