“What is a leader?” I ask. I look out and see my students; six sets of eyes looking back at me. Their eyes are filled with different emotions. Some look confused, others are pensive, and some are just blank. These students have no idea what a leader is, or what one does, or how to become one. Even though their eyes are filled with questions, I already know what my students’ capabilities. I already know that my students are leaders.
The students looking back at me are all 6th graders, part of my 50 Acts of Leadership group. As part of the “Behavior” component of City Year’s “ABC” model, 50 Acts of Leadership is designed to help students develop into leaders and positive peer role models. Throughout this process, students not only learn about how to positively influence those around them, they are also learning about themselves and what characteristics make them who they are.
Even though I’ve worked with adolescents before in a professional capacity, I was not prepared for what was in store for me when it came to 50 Acts of Leadership. I thought I had it in the bag: recent college graduate with a degree in Sociology and minor in Psychology, internship at a school already under my belt, and serving as the Behavior Coordinator for my Rockwell Automation Team. This is why I decided to challenge myself and pick students for my 50 Acts of Leadership group who may not have been the easiest choice. I picked six pre-teen boys. Six boys with six very different personalities. But while each of the group members has a different personality and a different past, they all come together twice a week with me and learn the same skills that will help each one of them grow.
Even though the road so far has been a bit rocky, mainly with “boys being boys,” over the past couple of weeks the boys have been displaying their growing leadership skills without even realizing it. For example, if they understand something in class that their neighbor doesn’t, they will help by explaining it to them. And the other day two of the boys stayed in with the teacher to help set up surprise birthday treats a mother had left for her daughter.
But it’s the little things that impress me the most. Being kind to their classmates. Not cursing during class. Doing independent work quietly. These are the things that I see the group members doing more and more. They are slowly becoming leaders whether or not they know it. The skills they are developing will not only help them now, but will continue to help them develop in the future. As proud of them as I am now, I know they will continue to make me more proud in the months to come. Because I know it now like I knew it then: they’re all leaders.