At a recent WATG Townhall meeting, “Leading the Way,” on February 25, educators and parents shared ideas on how to find and work with emerging leaders at all levels. Many great ideas were discussed, and one serendipitous idea especially caught our attention. What if we married current events articles about students finding themselves in leadership positions, and gleaning lessons learned? Then students could be learning about current events AND processing lessons learned about leadership, things such as: What does it take to be a leader? Does leadership find you, or do you find leadership? What skills are needed, and what skills can be learned? How are those skills learned? How do leaders find problems to solve? How do problems find leaders to solve them? How can we best teach the skills needed to be a leader? When (at what age) should we start? What leadership opportunities might be present in my life? Where can I get help with my ideas?
A perfect example to use in a leadership lesson such as this was reported recently In this article in the Washington Post, People Are Struggling to Get Vaccine Appointments...A 14-Year Old Stepped In. Freshman Benjamin Kagan essentially used the problem-solving method in tandem with his leadership skills, providing others with some valuable leadership lessons. First he spotted a problem; he discovered that many people were having difficulty securing appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. So he set out to learn more about the problem, and used both creative and critical thinking skills. He said he learned to navigate vaccine registration systems in January while helping his grandparents in Florida find appointments. Then a journalist who talked to his class for career day urged the students to watch a local news segment, in which Benjamin learned about the Chicago Vaccine Hunters group on Facebook.
Realizing that his newfound vaccine registration skills might be in demand, he started sharing tips with the Chicago Vaccine Hunters group while on his winter break. Immediately his Facebook Messenger inbox began to overflow with requests. Many people asked for help because they said they were “too slow or technologically unskilled to sign up themselves.” At this point, Benjamin realized that he needed a plan if he were to upscale his idea.
Since he could not keep up with the demand for assistance by himself, he enlisted the help of about 50 additional volunteers. Using Google Forms, Benjamin created a spreadsheet to organize the requests, the volunteers, and the work.
Besides being a fabulous human interest story, this account provides a great teaching lesson in leadership. Additionally, there are probably many fine examples of leadership in action in the news, and they could be used to pique our young people’s interest in both leadership and service learning. So often when we find ourselves (immersed) in service learning, we find ourselves, our talents, and a calling. We learn new skills and use them to make our world a better place. Benjamin found himself and developed his leadership skills; others can too. How can we foster these skills?
Additional note: The theme for WATG’s 2021 Annual Fall Conference is “Leading the World Into the Future.” We are planning to celebrate the many ways that we can develop leadership skills in our young people. What have you tried? Would you be willing to submit a workshop proposal and share your ideas? Here is your chance to be a LEADER! Proposal form can be found here. Take a risk; share and grow!