Kids Can be Changemakers
In my first year at Bialik, it came to me when I was speaking to a Grade 3 class. A child raised his hand and said to me, “Where are OUR student council representatives, Mrs. Greenberg?” He was clearly thinking that he wanted to have someone he knew representing HIS voice and HIS interests as an Elementary Division student. His voice stayed in my head over the coming months as I got to know Bialik and the students. It wasn’t long before his question became the catalyst for a new program that would give Elementary students a voice in a new way — the Grade 5 Leadership Program.
Together with our Grade 5 teachers and school counsellor, we carved out a program that would put our Grade 5 students in a position of responsibility where they could learn from being leaders while enriching the lives of the rest of the Elementary Division students. We wanted to challenge our students to become changemakers in their own community and positively impact the Bialik experience. Through leadership, we believe that students learn by modelling positivity and empathy, while feeling part of the fabric of their school and a strong connection to its progress and growth.
In October 2017, we introduced the Grade 5 students to the concept of the Grade 5 Leadership Program and gave them the opportunity to have an impact through involvement in two initiatives of their choice.
These are the ways we gave kids the opportunity to lead their peers:
- Lost and Found Managers The Lost and Found student managers organize the Lost and Found every day and strive to return labelled items to their owners.
- Lunch Club Coordinators These students are responsible for organizing and running lunch clubs for our Grade 1 and 2 students.
- Recess Coaches These coaches help organize and facilitate inclusive games and activities at recess for Grade 1-2 students.
- Ruach Representatives Ruach (Spirit) Representatives are tasked with promoting positive spirit and school culture by organizing activities, announcements and events that Elementary and Primary students can enjoy.
- Movement Monitors Movement Monitors are part of the Kindergarten buddies program (bringing JK and SK students in during morning arrival at school). They also help with the flow of traffic in our hallways and stairwells as students go in and out from recess.
It was hard to understand the impact of the program at first, but then the stories started to trickle in. First, it was a very happy mother who sent me an email thanking our Lost and Found Managers for returning her child’s favourite hat directly to her classroom. Then, it was the vision of our Recess Coaches, in their neon green reflective vests, as Grade 1 and 2 students swirled around them laughing and running. This was followed by an image of twelve Grade 1 and 2 students making guacamole under the masterchef guidance of our Lunch Club Coordinators. Our Ruach Reps made their mark by running a successful week of activities that celebrated the Olympics and winter and teaching the whole division our school song. Most recently, they engaged the Grade 1-5 students in lunchtime Chanukah celebrations. Finally, the Movement Monitors became important assistants in seating students at school functions and bringing Kindergarten students safely to the door from the drive-through.
As this program continues to provide ruach in our halls, smiles on the faces of the younger students, and a more organized approach to lost items and stragglers in the hall, I am often reminded of the impact of putting power in the hands of kids — it pushes the boundaries of what we think they can do, learn and lead.
Steven Covey says that “Leadership is a choice, not a position.” We want to make sure that our Grade 5 students have the ability and drive to choose to be leaders.
A student recently said to me, “Mrs. Greenberg, it’s hard working with the Grade 1 and 2 students. They have trouble listening.” This student was learning empathy from his new vantage point as a leader in the school. Like his peers, he was starting to understand that leadership is not putting on a neon vest; it is learning to solve problems, work with people, and inspire others.