leadership

Developing 21st Century Skills: Leadership

We all want our students to be leaders, but just like any other skill, leadership must be taught and practiced regularly in the 21st century classroom.

Some kids are natural leaders — others look up to them, they have confidence, and they help others. However, leadership skills must be learned by most children. Leadership lessons can teach students how to develop social skills, how to build relationships, and how to make good decisions. Those lessons learned can ensure that students will mature into effective adult leaders.

Teachers demonstrate leadership skills through their own example, but there are definite ways to intentionally teach their students to be good leaders.

leadership1. Study Famous Leaders

Begin by having the class learn about a good leader. Reading a biography or talking about the life of a civil rights leader, a sports hero, or a social media entrepreneur can help your students learn what made those people good leaders. Learning from their example can help students demonstrate the skills needed to succeed in leadership.

2. Group Projects

Assigning small group activities in your classroom helps students to learn about teamwork. Make sure that leadership roles are not always taken by the same student, but that each child is assigned to take charge and lead a group. Guide them in negotiating with other team members, to respect others’ viewpoints, and to tackle any problems that occur with the group.

3. Debate Teams

Dividing the class into two groups for a debate teaches much more than communication skills. Good leaders are able to hear and respect different opinions. Learning to make decisions, working together to research, developing a stance based upon facts, and presenting their position in a clear and positive way teaches lifelong leadership skills.

4. Make a Difference

leadershipStudents often complain about their schools and communities. Teaching them to do something about the problems they see is encouraging leadership. Are there too many cliques? Is bullying a problem? Are there no extra-curricular options for students outside of sports? Working with students to create solutions to these problems and brainstorming with them to suggest ways they can make a difference is a great leadership lesson. Teachers can take it one step further by finding a way to recognize students who stepped up as school leaders.

Education has developed far beyond teaching facts and figures for students to memorize and correctly answer on a test. Teaching a child the valuable soft skills employers need is the first step in developing a successful 21st century adult.

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Sue Hamilton

Sue is a Pennsylvania native and graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.S. degree in English. She worked as a radio newscaster and newspaper reporter before becoming a paralegal in a small civil law firm. Reading is her passion and Sue is an avid volunteer with her community library.

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