Students

Fostering a Culture of Student Leadership

Dr. Kara Stern
2 min read
Graphic paper planes and webpage. Text saying Cultivating Student Leadership.

People become educators for many different reasons. One of mine was to right the wrongs of my own education (see my earlier post about school refusal).

Senior year of high school, I was elected president of the student council. This was a big feat for someone who rarely went to school, and I was proud of myself. I had big plans for what I wanted to accomplish.

Leadership only counts if it comes with authority

The day of the first council meeting arrived. I was prepared, and in uniform. I had a first period meeting with the headmistress of the school, who we called Big Mac. I sat down in front of Big Mac’s desk. She glared at me. “You will not discuss anything at student council that I have not pre-approved. You will not launch any initiatives that I have not pre-approved. I will attend all the meetings to ensure compliance with these rules.”

The air went whooshing from the red balloon of my excitement, and I instantly lost all interest in student council. The only thing we accomplished that year? Adding another color to the list of approved sweater colors for our school uniform.

Every child is a leader

Of course, the purpose of sharing this story is to encourage all teachers and school leaders to support your students to develop their voice, their sense of agency, and their capacity to make change in their communities, much like this middle school principal who we interviewed for Snack-Size PD.

This National Student Leadership Week, let’s remember that every child is a leader; we just have to give them the opportunity, and the freedom, to be one. Ready to get started? Here’s a template full of helpful resources for fostering a culture of student leadership at your school.

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Dr. Kara Stern

Dr. Kara Stern began her career as an ELA teacher, then shifted into administration as a middle school principal. Dr. Stern is a fervent advocate for equitable communication and family engagement. She spent five years as Executive Director at Math for America, where she designed the professional learning community that exists to this day. An unexpected move to Tel Aviv launched her into the world of EdTech where she became the Director of Education Content for Smore and then the Head of Education Solutions at SchoolStatus. Outside of work, she indulges her love for reading, devouring two novels weekly, with a particular fondness for heists and spy stories.

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