What is a leader? That's the question being contemplated by our students at Cerritos Leadership Academy. While exploring what "Being a Leader" actually means to them, our students are discovering that being a leader isn't always about what they do or say, but also about who they "are being" and how they are influencing others.
When I asked my fourth-grade students at Kyrene de los Cerritos Elementary School to reflect upon how leaders behave, they had insightful observations.
• "Leaders help others improve."
• "A leader helps people get through things."
• "Leaders can put out fires and can build buildings. Leaders can be anything they want!"
• "Leaders can change the whole world!"
Leaders are obviously held in high esteem by my students, but the following student comments indicate that students also recognize that leadership represents responsibility.
• "If we didn't have leaders, the world would be chaos."
• "Being a leader isn't easy because you have to make sure that you are the good role model."
So how does a leader in training learn to become more responsible? In their quest to develop leadership skills by becoming more responsible, our Cerritos students are using "Data Passports" to chart their own academic course. Data Passports provide students with a template for setting their own goals, monitoring their progress themselves, and assessing their own achievements and areas for improvement. As my students become empowered and take responsibility for their own learning and for their academic goals, they lead by example and positively influence those around them to take responsibility.
During the course of this school year, Cerritos students will continue to explore how each of them may use their own special skills and talents to positively influence both their classmates and their communities. Our students already realize the importance of leaders, and are striving to become leaders themselves. I see their attempts to be leaders when my students invite shy students to join their kickball team on the playground, when they walk quietly down the hallway past a group of kindergarteners, and when they take the time to put their scrap paper in the class recycling bin instead of the garbage can. Our students are proud to be part of Cerritos Leadership Academy. As one of my students put it: "Leaders are important because you always need someone to look up to. It is important to know there is always someone who is a good role model."
I couldn't have said it better myself!
Richard Pysher is a fourth-grade teacher at Kyrene de los Cerritos Elementary School in Ahwatukee Foothills.