Middle School is a time when there is significant change and growth: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially. It can be a confusing time, but also a special and magical time for students to learn more about themselves, explore and identify new passions and areas of interest, and also develop agency as learners.
Middle School is a time when students find their voice, and start to develop their leadership skills. At ISK, we believe in the power of amplifying and listening to student voice, and providing opportunities for students to expand and grow their leadership qualities. Our Middle School believes and promotes that ALL students can be leaders, and encourages all students to find a way to get involved, use their student voice, and find something they are interested in to expand and grow their leadership. We do not have an elected Student Council, for example, but instead provide a variety of opportunities for students to naturally grow as leaders based on their interests. Below are some of the examples of how students can grow their leadership.
Leadership Round Table
Every two to three weeks, we host a Leadership Round Table. This falls under the ‘Democracy’ pillar of Round Square, and we promote that any student can choose to participate in any of the sessions they choose. We share the topics that will be discussed, and use this as an opportunity to get student feedback and input about different aspects of life in the Middle School. The topics this year have included: feedback on our hybrid learning plan, input about how to stay connected and tend to the mental health of our community, feedback as we returned to face-to-face learning, input on the electives offerings for courses next year, and sharing thoughts on our schedule/time table. Students then report our conversation to the entire Middle School during assemblies, practicing their public speaking and presenting skills.
Student Leadership Seminar
Twice a year, we host a Leadership Seminar. This is also open to any students interested in attending, and has a different theme each time. The goal is to have fun and grow as student leaders through participation. We also try to dispel the myth that leaders are those who stand at the front and have the loudest voice, but instead, hope that all students will start to recognize their unique leadership gifts. The theme in December was around our Strategic Focus Area (SFA) for Wellbeing. Our upcoming Leadership Seminar in April will focus on our SFA for Inclusion.
The purpose of our House System is to connect and grow our community vertically across the Middle School. Each house has a few House Captains who come together regularly to plan fun events to support that goal. This year, that has included the Jerusalema Challenge, a Kahoot Challenge during the DDL, the Bottle Flip / Cone Flip activity when we were in Hybrid Learning, Hybrid Sports Day in December, socially distanced Noodle Tag and Drama Games in February, and most recently the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES). We are so grateful for these community builders to help us have fun these Wednesday mornings.
This group requires an application process, and provides service to our ISK community. Student Ambassadors provide tours to prospective families, support New Student Orientation, and act as ‘buddies’ to new students. Ambassadors work with our counselor to have regular training sessions, and also to continually support the overall culture and climate in our Middle School.
Social Justice Club
Some of our co-curricular offerings also provide amazing opportunities for students to grow their voice as leaders. The Social Justice Club is for students who are interested in equity and social justice work that can really impact both the ISK community and the world at large. Students meet each week and work collaboratively to learn about and promote social justice work within our community. This club is student-led and student-centered. Students have the opportunity to lead the Middle School in this work by creating a meaningful program for our advisory sessions related to identity, equity, and social justice every Thursday.
Proud To Be Me Day Planning
This group of student planners starts meeting in November to plan how the Middle School will celebrate our diversity and learn more about our identities on our annual Proud to Be Me Day. Students propose the different themes for the student-led workshops and then work with supporting teachers to develop meaningful activities to engage their peers. The purpose of this day is:
- To raise awareness about different aspects of identity and how it contributes to our community’s diversity
- To nurture an open mind and heart to expand our inclusive community
- To increase awareness, acceptance, and a sense of belonging
- Increase sensitivity about the impact of our actions and words
Peace Day and Earth Day Planning Committees
International Day of Peace is on September 21st each year, and Earth Day is celebrated on April 22nd. A few weeks before these two dates, we put out a call for interested students to help us plan how we will honor and celebrate these important days as a Middle School community. How will we contribute to a more peaceful world? In what ways can we increase our environmental stewardship?
We also have ad hoc committees and opportunities that come up for students to get involved as leaders. Most recently, we extended an offer for interested students to join our Scheduling Committee, as we look to the 2021-22 school year and hope to design a timetable that will support our teaching and learning goals. It is important for us to not only support the growth of student leadership, but also to ensure we are listening carefully to student voices and experiences.
There are so many opportunities for our students to get involved, grow their leadership, and make a difference. We encourage all students to get involved and grow their leadership!
***With deep gratitude to Beth Coyle and Colleen Coady, who launched this model of student leadership at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India. I have been so fortunate to learn from amazing models and mentors, and have seen this student leadership model to be powerful for Middle School Students.