Beginning in our preschool, leadership is a skill explicitly taught to our youngest students. Whether they are creating their own classroom rules, learning to make their own choices instead of imitating their friend, or deciding how to independently work during centers, students learn that leadership means doing the right thing.
In our earliest elementary grades, we provide individual leadership opportunities. Beginning with being tasked as a flag holder at assembly or standing up and leading tefillah, our kindergarten and first grade students learn how to hold themselves in public, how to project their voices, and how to feel comfortable in front of a crowd. As they grow older, the leadership opportunities grow. Beginning in second grade, students may run for student council class officer; beginning in third grade, students have an opportunity to run for school-wide student council offices and to act as a big buddy for tefillah; and these opportunities only continue to increase for our fourth and fifth graders.
The pinnacle of this leadership education, however, occurs in our sixth grade. In addition to leading our daily assembly and having many public speaking opportunities, our sixth graders take a weekly leadership class. They begin the year with taking a strengths inventory that identifies their talents and how to use those talents appropriately. As one of our current sixth graders described the inventory, “how does this test know this about me?! Are they stalking me?” Using this strengths profile, students then craft their own leadership project for the year. As they graduate and go on to middle school, students demonstrate that they ARE leaders. They know right from wrong and stand up for right, they exude confidence, they demonstrate strong public speaking skills, and they positively influence others to make good choices as well.
Beth Hillel Elementary School has pioneered this Strengths–Based Leadership course, developed based on extensive research done by The Gallup Corporation.