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1. Ready

What is leadership?

In his famous TED Talk,
“Everyday Leadership”, Dudley, D. (2010). Leading with Lollipops [video]. TED.
Drew Dudley challenges us to redefine leadership. He argues that leadership has become something beyond us, and that, by putting leadership on a pedestal, we are failing to make it attainable. Leadership is often talked about in the context of renowned changemakers. People like Mahatma Gandhi, who successfully and humanely led India to freedom from British rule, or Malala Yousafzai, who courageously advocated for women’s rights and education in Pakistan. Although these people are influential leaders, they do not exclusively personify leadership.

Leadership is not about having a title or changing the world, and it isn’t always about being at the front of the pack. Instead, leadership is about empowering others and inspiring greatness – it’s about unlocking people’s potential to thrive. True leadership has an amplifying effect because, rather than creating more followers, it nurtures more leaders. Myles Munroe defines leadership as “the capacity to influence others through inspiration, motivated by passion, generated by vision, produced by conviction, [and] ignited by a purpose”.

Everyone has the capacity to be a leader in their everyday life.

Why is it important to empower students as leaders?

Empowering students to be leaders Southeastern University. (2019, August 15). Empowering Students: 6 Proven Strategies. Southeastern University Online Learning.
is “an approach to teaching that puts students at the center of the learning process, allowing them to make decisions about their education and giving them the confidence to achieve their goals”.
Studies have found Kirk, C., Lewis, R., Brown, K., Karibo, B., & Park, E. (2016). The power of student empowerment: Measuring classroom predictors and individual indicators. The Journal of Educational Research, 109(6), 589–595.
that students who are empowered are more engaged and successful in both the academic and extra-curricular aspects of school, and that highly empowered students also have higher educational aspirations and fewer behavioural problems. One of the most important benefits of student empowerment is its ability to enhance student engagement both inside and outside the classroom. Unfortunately, with each school year, students report feeling less and less engaged, and therefore also less empowered.

The Gallup Student Poll, Busteed, B. (2013). The School Cliff: Student Engagement Drops With Each School Year. Gallup News.
which surveyed nearly 500,000 students in grades 5 through 12 across the United States in 2012, found that, “nearly 8 in 10 elementary students who participated in the poll [were] engaged at school. By middle school that falls to about 6 in 10 students, and by high school, only 4 in 10 students qualify as engaged”. This decline in student engagement may be because
traditional teaching practices often disempower students. Broom, C. (2015). Empowering students: Pedagogy that benefits educators and learners. Citizenship, Social and Economics Education, 14(2), 79–86.


When teachers
focus on empowering students, Broom, C. (2015). Empowering students: Pedagogy that benefits educators and learners. Citizenship, Social and Economics Education, 14(2), 79–86.
it paves a path for students to become good, active citizens who feel like they have the ability to enact social change and engage in actions that influence others. In other words, empowerment is closely related to self-efficacy – the belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations – both inside and outside the classroom.

How can I empower my students to be leaders?

Students feel more empowered when they have positive relationships with their teachers, when there is a sense of community in the classroom, and when there is equitable power distribution. Apart from the class environment, student empowerment is largely determined by how you choose to engage with your students. In the article,
“Empowering Students: Pedagogy that Benefits Educators and Learners”, Broom, C. (2015). Empowering students: Pedagogy that benefits educators and learners. Citizenship, Social and Economics Education, 14(2), 79–86.
Catherine Broom from the University of British Columbia suggests that teachers can empower students at school in the following way:

  • Give students more control and choice over their learning (ex. use less detailed criteria, focus on inquiry-based projects, and allow for students to display their learning in a variety of ways)
  • Build students’ confidence by encouraging their independence
  • Trust your students
  • Provide extension or challenging activities for students who are bored or to link learning to students’ interests
  • Give regular and positive formative feedback for students to learn from their mistakes and continue their growth
  • Help students see knowledge as something “living” that changes quickly and continuously rather than as something “finished”
  • Role model everyday leadership and living an empowering life
Outside of the educational context, teachers also play a pivotal role in shaping students’ leadership abilities, self-efficacy and empowerment. You can help students
unleash their leadership potential Fulton, J. (2019, February 13). 10 Interesting Characteristics of a Student Leader. Classcraft Blog.
by helping them build good listening and communication skills, asking them to make decisions and be responsible, encouraging them to set goals and work hard, valuing honesty and positivity, and setting an expectation for students to be willing to help others.

Where can I learn more?

Drew Dudley’s Website

Edutopia – The 7 Characteristics of a Good Leader

Think Strategic – School Leadership for the 21st Century (for being a leader as a teacher or administrator)

Leader in Me – Developing a Leadership Mindset: The Key to Student Empowerment

Building Everyday Leadership in All Kids: An Elementary Curriculum to Promote Attitudes and Actions for Respect and Success

What will students learn?

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…

  • Define leadership and understand what it means to be an everyday leader
  • Identify dangerous misconceptions about leadership that make it seem out of reach
  • Recognize and encourage everyday leaders in their life by acknowledging lollipop moments
  • See themselves as a leader, or as having the potential to be a leader
  • Use their leadership capacity to make a positive impact on the world (one small step at a time)
References
Beecuz

Broom, C. (2015). Empowering students: Pedagogy that benefits educators and learners. Citizenship, Social and Economics Education, 14(2), 79–86.

Busteed, B. (2013). The School Cliff: Student Engagement Drops With Each School Year. Gallup News.

Dudley, D. (2010). Leading with Lollipops [video]. TED.

Fulton, J. (2019, February 13). 10 Interesting Characteristics of a Student Leader. Classcraft Blog.

Kirk, C., Lewis, R., Brown, K., Karibo, B., & Park, E. (2016). The power of student empowerment: Measuring classroom predictors and individual indicators. The Journal of Educational Research, 109(6), 589–595.

Southeastern University. (2019, August 15). Empowering Students: 6 Proven Strategies. Southeastern University Online Learning.

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