What to do when a fun activity turns into a gripe fest? Turn to leadership.
I’m not sure if it was due to spring fever, or typical adolescent waxing and waning maturity, but our students’ behavior reminded me of children who get dessert every day and then start to complain about the flavor of ice cream being offered. But instead of dessert, our students were griping about field trips. Since we are committed to experiential learning, we aren’t going to take away field trips; instead, we put the students in charge of running the trips.
At the beginning of each week, we ask for a volunteer student leader who is responsible for organizing the logistics of the trip. We’ve already chosen the destination (which correlates to our curriculum) but how we get there and the details of how we organize our group are up to the trip leader. Our leader can create smaller groups and appoint group leaders and delegate tasks.
This leadership shift has resulted in smoother field trips and more importantly, greater satisfaction from students regarding the trips.
Why? Even though the core activity did not change, the students now have more invested in the activity and its success. If they don’t like how it goes, they are partially responsible. And with leadership roles rotating, they are careful to both do a good job and be empathetic when someone else is leading.
After one student led field trip, the student leader, who did a great job, said it was one of the hardest things he’d ever done. What was his take away? “Being a leader is gratifying but exhausting.”
Then, we incorporated this leadership paradigm within the school day. When we need the canteen cleaned up, we put a student leader in charge. If we are hosting visitors, we appoint a student leader to welcome them and initiate a tour.
In developing their leadership skills, our students are learning to manage each other while also learning that increased freedom comes with increased responsibility. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.
[By the way, this works at home in the kitchen too. Kids complaining about what you are serving? Give them the job of figuring out and cooking a healthy meal.]