Self-discipline, independence and resilience were some of the qualities of leadership I hadn’t really considered before. Fionn (Grade 6)
This week Andrew Wood invited me to attend the Grade 6 Leadership Day which has been running at KPS for almost ten years now. The day starts with a guest speaker who introduces some concepts of leadership, and the students then divide into groups and undertake five different workshops each focusing on an aspect of leadership. A team bonding BBQ lunch breaks up the day, and everyone has a chance to reflect on what they’ve learnt at the end. The workshops are facilitated by Senior and Grade 6 staff and a parent volunteer.
I talked to Jacki Hopkins who coordinates the day about its aims and objectives.
We want to inspire the students to step up now that they’re in Grade 6. They’re becoming role models for the younger kids, and we’re asking them to stand up for themselves – and sometime to stand up to their peers – and that’s a big ask. Today is about helping them make the right choices and giving them the skills and confidence they need to do that.
It’s also about giving them some practical experience. For example, a group of students was involved in the planning and organising of the day. They wrote letters to local shopkeepers asking for support and then took those letters and delivered them personally. It’s about building confidence and independence. They go from being top of the pecking order at primary school to the bottom of the heap at high school and that’s a difficult transition.
We’re also trying to instil some sense of responsibility and maturity; it’s not just about being in Grade 6 and being the oldest and telling everyone else what to do; that’s not leadership. We make this a big event and stress its importance to try to get the message across that we’re serious and this is important.
The aim of the lunch time BBQ is a little like what we tried to do with Team 4 last year; it’s about respecting and supporting each other, having a sense of team culture, rather than the individual. It’s the first step to preventing bullying.
The guests speaker of the day was Chris Johnson, former AFL player who is now involved in the AFL’s Indigenous development program. Chris talked to a very attentive group about values, and making sure you get yours right and then stick to them.
He asked the kids to list some important qualities in a leader: honesty, kindness and caring, good sportsmanship, respect, being able to listen and accept new ideas, and being proud of your achievements.
You may be a good footy player, said Chris, but you need to be a good person first. Then you can be a good leader.
He asked the kids to call out the names of good leaders they knew: Ricky Ponting, Jim Stynes, Barack Obama, Jeff Kennett, Winston Churchill, Peter Garrett (any women, I wondered? Oh, yes, Julia Gillard. Excellent).
Chris talked about the importance of role-models; of finding someone to look up to and learning from them. In his case it was his father who was his first and most important role model.
And finally he answered lots of questions from a very eager audience.
Chris was engaging, thoughtful and funny; I reckon the kids were inspired, because I certainly was.
After Chris’s talk the students divided into their groups and went off for their workshops: Organisation with Mr Archibald, Responsibility with Ms Grace, Public Speaking with Shelley Ware, Contributing with Andrew Wood and Culture with parent volunteer Chris Power.
I checked in with Chris Power at the end of the day. I run these sessions for big corporates, she said, looking ever so slightly exhausted, but five lots of Grade 6s and I’ve had it!
We talked about culture, Chris explained, which I defined as ‘the way we do things around here’ and that every group, whether it’s a sports team or a grade, has its own culture which can be negative or positive.
I asked the students to remember back to when they were in Prep and had Grade 6 Buddies. And if those Buddies had asked them to jump, what would they have done? They got it.
It’s funny, they said they remembered their Buddies as bigger, physically, than they are now, but I assured them they weren’t an especially small group of Grade 6s!
Then we worked on identifying their ideal culture for KPS and talked about how they would make that happen. They handled these concepts really well and lots of them were able to think about these questions in quite a complex way.
At the end of the day Jacki asked the kids for their highlights: I liked brainstorming things we could do for the school; I liked thinking about culture; about how people look at the school and how they see us; I never knew there was so much to do when you organised an event; I liked coming up with creative ideas – for new clubs or special days.
And the last word went to Fionn in response to Jacki’s question about the qualities that make a good leader. Self-discipline, independence and resilience, he said, were some of the qualities of leadership I hadn’t really considered before.
By the time the bell went for the end of the day everyone looked exhausted, but the kids were buzzing with everything they’d learnt.
You hear a lot in the media these days about the lack of values in our state schools. Well, I certainly saw many great values being modelled and taught today.
It was a great day; a huge effort by the staff (and volunteer parent) and a fantastic experience for our kids. Thank you.