A Leader is Not Always a Leader

About Paula Kay Glass

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior. She has been an educator for 20 years. She founded a private elementary school in 2003 and currently teaches in a classroom there. Paula is also a contributing writer to The Huffington Post and has a children's book published. Paula has three grown children and resides in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You can contact her at glass foundations@sbcglobal.net or visit her at www.paulakayglass.com.

Oh my goodness! I have an abundance of, how shall I put it, VERY STRONG LEADERS in my classroom this year. You know that point where you feel like your class is completely autonomous and could run smoothly without you? Yeah, we haven’t gotten to that point because if I wasn’t present it would be a fight to the death as to who would be in charge. And believe me, I’ve tried everything in my 22 year old tool bag to get to the point of establishing a chain of command, but it always seems to backfire on me.

I have an abundance of VERY strong leaders in my classroom Click To Tweet

Until I realized that I was trying way too hard and stressing out way too much over ensuring that my natural born leaders weren’t squashed in the midst of their endeavors. I began creating positions that my students had to earn. And when I say earn, I don’t just mean working hard to obtain a position. I am talking demonstrating consistent character traits inside and outside the class. My criteria was a bit more structured than that. It included the way the student behaved at school AND at home.

You see, it is very important to me for kids to be respectful and kind. They can demonstrate advanced mathematics and read two levels above where they should, but if they are mean hearted and rude, none of those educational accomplishments matter in my book. I’m looking for kids who treat others the way they want to be treated and who make it a point to help someone else. When their hearts are right, the academics follow.

it is very important to me for kids to be respectful and kind Click To Tweet

So I used to this to my advantage. On a Monday I let my kids know that the positions of teacher’s helper and errand runner would now be chosen specifically by me and would be based on behavior: how you treat others, how you treat your teachers, how you treat your grown ups and how you treat your things. I then went over the questionnaire that would go home in their travel logs. It let grown ups know what was going on and it asked them to rate their student on several different aspects of their behavior at home. (Since the grown ups must sign the travel log each evening, this was a simple component to add to their night time routine.)

Eyes were wide. I almost laughed, knowing that many of them were not very nice, even if they did demonstrate several other leader qualities.

And I was right. Comments started pouring in the first week. ‘Not listening,’ ‘Picking on her sister,’ ‘Room is a mess,’ ‘Talks back to parents.’ I added my comments of ‘Not listening in class,’ ‘Rolling eyes at me,’ and ‘Turned in work late’ and needless to say, I didn’t have a teacher helper OR an errand runner for that week. Or the second week for that matter. By the third week the kids began to realize that I meant business and if they wanted to participate in their coveted positions and be the ‘boss,’ they had better straighten up and start demonstrating what a well-rounded leader looked like. I began to get more ‘yes ma’ams’ and ‘thank you’s’ without having to remind them. Notes from home trickled in mentioning that behaviors were slowly changing. Believe me, I’ll take slow over never any day.

And momentum began to pick up each week.

I’ve really been shocked at how positive leadership behavior has continued over the past two months. Our class runs smoother and there is a wonderful calm that has settled over most of my students. I’m hoping that this habit continues, without prompting.

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About the Author:

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior. She has been an educator for 20 years. She founded a private elementary school in 2003 and currently teaches in a classroom there. Paula is also a contributing writer to The Huffington Post and has a children's book published. Paula has three grown children and resides in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You can contact her at glass foundations@sbcglobal.net or visit her at www.paulakayglass.com.

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