Investing in a student leadership program in your school community is one of the best ways to improve school climate and culture, prioritize students’ voices, build community and connections, and teach leadership skills.
What is student leadership?
We define student leadership as: when students use information, ideas, skills, and courage to positively influence their peers and their community by stepping up and stepping back. To step up means that students use their courage to take action like speaking up or sharing an idea when they have knowledge or experience that could benefit a group, and to step back means that they use their courage to take action like asking someone else for their opinion, listening, celebrating another’s idea, and doing whatever is asked of them to benefit the group.
When we say “invest in student leadership,” we mean inspiring and then formally training a group of students to lead and contribute in their school community. Whether you have an established student leadership team at your school that would benefit from formal training or you’re looking to create opportunities for students to lead and contribute in your community, we are excited to share our top five reasons to invest in student leadership.
1. Improve school climate and culture
Student leadership inspires students to take ownership of school climate and culture. If you are having lunchroom issues or noticing a drop in school spirit, we encourage you to talk to your student leaders and empower them to take ownership and make a difference in their community.
2. Prioritize students’ voices
Student leadership encourages students to explore opportunities to lead positively and invites their voices to be heard. Prioritizing students’ voices signals to the student body that their input is important and they are trusted to make decisions and make a difference. We encourage educators to continually ask, “Is there something an adult at school is doing that students really could be doing?”
3. Teach important skills
Leadership is a mindset and a skill set. Students are not born “leaders” or “non-leaders.” Everyone has the capacity to lead. But it does take practice. Students don’t learn to play the cello and then play the cello, or learn to play hockey and then play hockey—they learn to play while they are playing. And the same goes for leadership—students learn to lead while leading. We encourage every school to invest in leadership training and set up opportunities for students to practice using the skills they learn.
4. Foster adult-to-student connections
The relationships that student leaders build with the adults in the building serve as a model for all students in how to engage, ask for help, and rely on the trusted adult network at school. Whether student leaders are planning an event, raising a concern, or looking to make changes in their community, student leadership provides an opportunity for students to build strong connections with the adults in their school community outside of the classroom.
5. Strengthen peer-to-peer relationships
Research shows that a middle or high school student is far more likely to reach out to a peer when in a dangerous or risky situation than they are to reach out to an adult. Training a small group of student leaders on the Comfort Zones and LEVERS (OTA tools everyone needs!) is an investment in support for ALL students.
There you have it! Student leadership is an investment worth making. Share our top five reasons to invest with your colleagues and administration, and advocate for a school culture that celebrates student voice, community, connections, and learning. (Check out this leadership worksheet.)One Trusted Adult’s Middle School Ripple Leadership Course and BeBOLD High School Leadership Course provide formal training that empowers students to lead, contribute, and make a positive impact in their communities. To learn more about our student leadership courses, visit onetrustedadult.com