How to Turn Students into Leaders Before the Bell Rings
Note: This is a guest post by Steven Puckett, Principal of Harrisburg Elementary School in Lancaster County, SC.
As a school leader, there’s no greater joy than seeing students become leaders. In one word, leadership is influence. At our school, we believe ALL our students and ALL our staff are leaders, and each of them has the power to influence those around them in a positive way. In order to develop leaders in our school, we focus on these principles EVERY SINGLE DAY. Regardless of where your school culture is, you can start implementing these three principles today.
Create contagious positivity
The first step to transforming students into leaders is teaching them to have a positive mindset. Simply put, your school must ooze positivity. Here’s how our school does it: We explicitly teach our students to always say, “I can” and not, “I can’t.” And here’s the best part: Positivity is contagious. When a few students get it, others catch on. Through our MVP Game Ball program, we also publically champion students who exhibit a “winning attitude.”
Serve to lead
It’s impossible to be a leader without serving others. Constantly create opportunities for your students, staff, and parents to serve others. Our school does this in several ways. Each month we focus on different charities and make a difference by giving ourselves and our time (through a dollar dress down program, student presentations, and canned food drives).
Additionally, we have multiple student clubs that focus on serving. Through our iLead leadership program, students are required to complete individual school-based service hours, take-home service hours, and group service hours. It’s also important to provide students with opportunities to see other adults making service a priority. Through our iLead Fellows program, over 45 dads come and volunteer their time to help us with morning car line. We’ve found that, without exception, when we focus on serving others we feel better about ourselves and our school culture gets a leadership boost!
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
To create a culture of leadership, harness the power of repetition. You can’t just talk about leadership once. You need to talk about it every chance you get—through emails to staff, morning announcements, phone blasts to parents, etc. When it comes to leadership, the more you talk about it, display it, and practically implement it, the deeper the impact on your school community. As we repeat leadership lessons over and over, we’ve seen our students and parents not only talk about it, but also live it out.
We at Harrisburg Elementary believe we can “change the world” through leadership. When staff, students, and parents leave our school, we have one goal in mind: We want the world to be a little better because of the life principles they discovered with us. If your school starts focusing on these three principles, you can impact the next generation too. Lead on!
Steven Puckett is a passionate educator, communicator, coach, and published author who currently serves as Principal of Harrisburg Elementary School in Lancaster County, SC. In 2012 Steven began to pilot iLead, an innovative leadership development program for young boys and girls that strategically teaches them how to become influencers. Steven frequently speaks at churches, conferences, and events to encourage and challenge others to live life beyond ordinary limits. Steven and his wife Jessica reside in Upstate South Carolina with their two children, Nathaniel and Emme.