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”Repeated behaviours lead to habits that soon form the student leadership culture of a class or school.”

Schools with the most effective student leadership programs have managed to establish a student leadership culture.

Leadership behaviours become so engrained in the fabric of a school that leadership becomes ‘the way that kids do things around here.’

I’m talking about kids speaking clearly and frankly in front of others. Kids caring for each other including the more vulnerable and uncool members of a class. Kids working together to achieve a goal rather than playing perpetual games of one-upmanship that occurs in schools where individualism is cultural norm.

So how do you create this culture of leadership? The following ideas will get you started on the road to a culture of student leadership in your school.

Teachers are facilitators of leadership experiences

For leadership to be effective teachers need to step back and allow students in. It can be a little scary stepping back to allow students to not only have a voice but to take some real responsibility and manage mistakes that come along the way. Moving to a facilitator role helps to consolidate student leadership culture.

There is succession in the air

Ideas and learnings are passed on from one group of students to another and from one leadership group to another. Somehow things are organised so that succession occurs between the group leaving and the new leadership.

Mentoring is a feature

Mentoring is one the most efficient ways to accelerate student leadership development in a school or class. Leadership-focussed schools practise four domains of mentoring – being a mentee, being a mentor, passing on learnings and leaving a legacy.

There is a language of leadership in the school

Leadership has its proprietary language, which is evident in schools and classrooms that focus on leadership. Students use terms and phrase such as: “Is this a job I should delegate, or can I do it myself?” “I’ve got to get my team moving in the right direction.” “That’s a problem I can’t solve by myself.” Students think ‘we’ not ‘me’ when there is culture and a language of leadership in a school.

Major student-initiated events happen

In schools that promote leadership teachers encourage their students to think in a service-oriented or problem-solving way, which is evidenced by ongoing projects that benefit others either inside or outside the school.

Student leaders are visible

Are student leaders highly visible in your school? Do they appear at assemblies? Do they have a regular presence in parent communications? Leadership doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Student leaders need to not only do something that impacts but need to be seen by many to be leading.

Adult-oriented events are handed over

Do you have any iconic events in your school that are organised by students?  Student-run assemblies are one way to give student opportunities to do some real leading in a public way. There are many other activities that student leaders can ably do from meeting and greeting visitors to a school to organising lunch-time quiz or games events for younger years.

Leadership is situational

“Cometh the situation, cometh the leader.” If you’ve spent time at a school camp you’ve probably noticed that some students who are normally shy or reserved back at school absolutely shine in the camp environment. They feel confident to take a lead and organise and assist others. It’s essential to provide students with a wide variety of experiences to allow their leadership potential of all students to flourish.

Roles are rotated

How long does a student fulfil a particular role? Some positions such as sport captaincy have a limited lifespan while others, such as house captaincy and SRC representation may last a year or more. By shortening the life of a leadership role schools open leadership opportunities for others.

Some schools have a rapid rotation of student roles – no role lasts more than half a school year. Even the prestigious position of school captain is rotated so that the maximum number of students have opportunities to participate. Rotation of leadership activities can happen on a short-term or even weekly basis. Sports leaders who deliver a report at assembly or write up a report for the school or class newsletter can change each week. So too can student monitors or those who have school yard responsibilities.

Schools that produce an abundance of capable, caring student leaders year after year generally have strong student leadership cultures. They don’t have to wait for a ‘good student cohort’ to come along to change the tone of the school. With the right processes in place student leadership becomes an embedded feature of school life.

Register for our next Discovery Session to find out how the Young Leaders Program can benefit your school. Join the community of schools who receive regular tips and strategies from the Young Leaders team.