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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators

Student leadership adapts to the pandemic

Educators found ways for students to practice leadership skills

By Kaylee Ax, Ridge Crest Elementary School | May | June 2021
Does student leadership need to stop just because in-person classes did? In my experience the answer is absolutely not. My school has discovered numerous ways to let students practice leadership skills during distance learning. I would like to highlight three crucial educators who care about student voice and leadership and made it a priority to make these things happen during the pandemic.
Our school principal, Mrs. Misty Kelley, has made it her goal to meet with every class in every grade each week to discuss student leadership and our schoolwide Leader In Me program. The Leader In Me program is based on Stephen R. Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and it helps us to understand how to be more effective and goal oriented. We sometimes read stories or watch short videos talking about these qualities. Mrs. Kelley has always made sure to be there for us.
Mrs. Kelley has given me the opportunity to participate in PTA events. During the pandemic, I have been able to help prepare and distribute items for drive-through events for families. Participating in these types of events makes me feel like I have a purpose at the school and encourages me to help others, thus learning leadership skills.
Out of all of the principals I have encountered, she is probably the best of them all. She is constantly checking in on me and is always there for me. She often comes into our Zoom class sessions and checks in with us or drops in to say hi. Mrs. Kelley has definitely played an important role in me becoming a good leader by demonstrating resilient leadership qualities.
Leadership Academy
We have a club that has been in motion for at least three years now. This group is called Leadership Academy. The club is run by fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Kelly Tegman and is open to grades fourth-sixth. Before lockdown, we focused on filming videos for our Friday morning announcements. We taught students how to practice the 7 Habits and how to be leaders. We also helped arrange assemblies and even oversaw them.
In Leadership Academy, everything is done by students. We film the videos, control the assemblies and teach others. After lockdown, we could no longer do what we did before; so we decided to come up with a new strategy. We made our very own slide presentation exhibiting the qualities of leadership.
We used programs such as Screencastify to film individual videos explaining the 7 Habits. We also had some other fun activities for the students to interact with, such as daily quotes, jokes, weekly birthdays and even an artist of the week. Our group meets every Thursday at 2:15 p.m. to edit our slideshow and make new videos.
Each person has their own job to do. Some students focus on birthdays and some are good with making videos. My job is to manage the artist of the week. It brings joy to me and the other members of this group to see our teachers and classmates interact and enjoy our creations.
Mrs. Tegman has taken the time to teach us responsibility by letting us manage the projects we do and to collaborate with the other members on how to do it. She has made it her mission to be there for us every single week, teaching us responsibility. This has been especially important during quarantine when lots of things in the world seem chaotic. I trust her and know I can always count on her and that she will always be there for me and the other members of Leadership Academy.
My teacher, Ms. Joy Graham, has done a phenomenal job teaching us how to manage our time and schedule so far this year. Even though it’s her first year teaching, you wouldn’t know it since she is so amazing and kind.
Ms. Graham has been working with a first-grade teacher at our school to have Little Buddies. We are each assigned to one or two buddies in a first-grade class. I have had the opportunity to communicate with my buddies through Screencastify videos. I sent them a video to let them get to know me and they have sent one back. I even learned that one of them likes to eat “nuggies” (chicken nuggets). As the older kids, we can teach our buddies responsibility and other leadership qualities, and maybe even inspire them to participate in leadership activities in the future.
My teacher has also encouraged me to think creatively. My most recent project is a website to help with classroom management. My teacher offers prizes that we can obtain by spending the points we earn during distance learning classes. She offers things like stickers, gift cards and other fun digital activities like a five-minute Zoom game of our choice. In order to make this simpler for her and my classmates, I created a website through Google Sites which shows all of the prizes and their point values and even some tips on how to earn the points needed to buy them. When I introduced her to my project, she thought it was cool and was excited to share it with the class once I was finished.
As a student, I look up to Ms. Graham and I am grateful that she fully supports me and my ideas. She motivates me to use my skills and creativity to be a better leader.
When all seemed lost and this pandemic took everything normal out of the school year, exceptional educators did not give up. They made it their priority to continue encouraging us to be better people so that when we return, we can be more prepared and maybe we can even be better leaders than we were before COVID-19. What people have inspired you to be a better leader, or better yet ... who have YOU inspired?
Kaylee Ax attends Ridge Crest Elementary School in the Moreno Valley Unified School District.
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