Young Team Builders
It's Never Too Early To Start Changing The World
Submitted by Jennifer
"I think people generally have a good heart and good intentions to help"* Unknown
Being a younger leader among my high-school peer community has presented its challenges, and ups and downs. I have had lessons go haywire and lessons go seamlessly. 'My Greatest Lesson' came from leading a group of individuals as part of our districts' Joliet Program. (For reference, the Joliet program is offered as an alternative support program for students with extreme emotional needs.) My course director made the objectives clear: set challenges and accomplish goals.
During this time, as a leader, I had been struggling to navigate the vagueness of what my evaluators considered to be well-rounded facilitation. I was caught up in the nuts and bolts of what specific steps I should be taking to reach the objectives.
Prior to the kids coming to our challenge course, our entire high school peer-leader team was given a refresher on how to navigate an emotional rescue with a participant and what mind set we should be coming in with in relation to this audience. I was 'out of my mind' nervous. Not only was this my first time working with a set of individuals who would need my extra support, it was also my first time facilitating outside my high school's peer leadership class, which I wasn't even half way completed with at the time.
Walking in that day, my personal objective was to make sure my group wouldn't completely fall apart in the span of five minutes. Little did I know there was a lot more ahead. I was placed with my group engrossed in nerves and fearing for the worst. I quietly asked their names and we went around quickly till there was silence. My group was just looking at me and I was just looking at them in complete silence. One boy spoke up asking whether or not we were going to climb all the way to the top (the top of our challenge course that is). I said back to him, "do you think you can" and I, for the first time in my leadership career, presented a challenge. He, and the rest of the group, looked at me with combined looks of anxiety and excitement.
Our peer-leader team's objective came clear to me after presenting that first challenge. I knew I wanted this silent, excited group of individuals to leave the course gaining something. This, as any exploring individual knows, can only be done through reaching your goals and a sense of achievement. I went around to each member of my group and first asked what they wanted to do that day. Most said that they wanted to climb to the very top. I would consider this the overall dream goal. It is fundamentally what a person wants to do. Later that day, after we had taught them some technical skills, I went around to each person in my group and asked them what they were 1000 percent confident that they could actually do. This is the confidence goal. Once they can reach this goal they will have built a good foundation centered in confidence by reaching this baseline.
It was then my challenge as a leader to help them find their "actual goal", the middle ground between the dream and the confidence. For example, in the context of education, I know I can get an A on this test, my dream is to get all "A"s, my actual goal is to bring up my grade in this particular class to an A.
This is my overall lesson as well. As a student leader, I want to discover how to gain a sense of achievement. Affirmation, in any form, is a mountain mover to an individual or a group. It can change a terrible situation into a great one, but the struggle is finding out how to do it. I still struggle with the vagueness of what it means to be a "good" peer leader and I probably always will, but following that day and following my first facilitation, I have now figured out how to be an effective peer leader. For me, the key is in the three layers of goal setting: dream, confidence, goal. This is not always explicit but with that lesson in mind I am able to create an unmatched group atmosphere.
Thanks for 'listening' - Jennifer
*I used the quote above as a foundation for a few of my lessons because ultimately, I believe that a student leader's job is to create people who have good hearts and think beyond themselves. We are the examples for others to follow and we set the agenda. We must be good at heart and have the best intentions in mind for our group.
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