Leadership Is Not In A Title
By Audrey Moh, Middle and High School English Teacher
“Nothing will work unless you do.”
– Maya Angelou
When I first came to Keystone, I had told the then Dean of Students, Wendy Bradley, that student leadership development was what I was keen on. Although since then, I have taken on several projects and responsibilities, student leadership continues to be a priority for me.
Student leadership at Keystone is very interesting. There are no predecessors for any potential student leader to look up to, and our most senior student group in the school’s inaugural year was grade 9. In most schools, it is typically the seniors in grades 11 and 12 that possess the maturity and skills to lead a student body. So what can the first Student Council at Keystone do?
Apparently, a lot! I have learnt over the years that leadership often shows up under pressure, or when one least expects it. Many people believe in the notion of a born leader. But I like to believe that whether people are born to be leaders or not, they need someone to nurture them, and help them better understand their own strengths and weaknesses. Without guidance and mentorship, leadership qualities can remain hidden for years and sadly sometimes, remain buried.
Adolescence, in my opinion, is the best time for this personal development. No one can say for sure who he or she is, and that gives us room for development. Many students believe that the only leadership position worth running for is the presidential one, but this is not true! A true leader recognizes that leadership can emerge anywhere, and does not need a title to prove it. A true leader also knows that he or she is just a person like any other who lives by the values that he or she believes in, regardless of the title.
Based on these beliefs, my co-advisor, Amanda Shen and I helped to nurture and guide the first Student Council. There were mistakes along the way. We had to remind ourselves about just how young they were, and how challenging it may be for the students to be mature and responsible at the same time. But, these amazing students rose to the challenge. As they learnt and experienced more about leadership, they began to realize the uniqueness of Keystone, and the kind of responsibilities future Student Council Presidents would have. That is why the first Student Presidents, together with Amanda and me, decided to test a different approach to forming the student council the second time around.
At the last Round Square Conference in Singapore where I met administrators and teachers from schools all over the world, I attended a seminar on democracy. When we talk about democracy to students, they often think about freedom of speech, and it is often linked to political agendas. However in student leadership, democracy is about the cultivation of a student voice, to allow the student cohort to realize just how powerful their voices and opinions can be. Listening and watching other educators present their versions of democracy adapted in their schools were inspiring, and so I brought the idea back to Keystone’s first Student Council.
Initially everyone was skeptical, including myself. The new process eliminated speeches and campaigning, thus removing all opportunities to prepare or manipulate votes in advance. But having spent a year with Amanda and me in leadership development, the student leaders believed that Keystone deserved a true leader, and so they voted for a new election process. This was a proud moment for us.
This new process allowed candidates to present a one-minute video to introduce themselves to the student body on Election Day. This was then followed by a Q&A session with a panel made up of teachers and students. This leveled the playing field. All candidates had to be considerate of each other. Honesty, and a desire to serve were what we were looking for. In addition, the opportunity to experience and participate in democracy in the form of student voices was presented fairly and equally to all students through voting.
Leadership development at Keystone is about helping every student realize that he or she has the power to do something. This article is not about what the Student Council can do, nor is it to encourage everyone to try to be in Student Council. It is to promote the leader in each of us, by recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, and working on them to become a better leader in our own lives. Those who voted wisely on Friday for the second Student Council, you have been a leader in ensuring that this year, the Student Council will serve you better!
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