Category Archives: My Reflections

Making a Larger Impact; Achieving a Long-Term Goal

I originally created Leaders UNITE with two goals in mind: 1.) showing students that leadership can be fun and 2.) showing students that anyone can be a leader. Zooming in on the second goal, it was very important to me that students understood that they did not have to fit a stereotypical leadership mold or personality in order to become successful leaders. Therefore, this goal took on a role not only encompassing activities and discussions, but also encompassing ways of helping students become more confident in their own abilities and personalities. This year especially, I have had the opportunity to not only share Leaders UNITE with students and teachers, but also with students’ parents. I have recently had the opportunity to talk with quite a few students’ parents and guardians, and was very happy with the feedback I have received about Leaders UNITE on the students’ confidence and demeanors.

Some parents have recently told me that Leaders UNITE has helped their children to come out of their shell- at school and even at home. As a club, we always want students to feel comfortable with their own personalities, showing students that they can become successful leaders even if they aren’t the most talkative or “stereotypical” types of leaders. To hear that some students felt more comfortable being themselves at school and at home because of this club just makes me so happy to hear.

Some parents have also recently told me that Leaders UNITE has helped their children to feel more comfortable interacting with their peers. One thing we often highlight in Leaders UNITE is teamwork, and that it is important to know your teammates on a personal level to know their strengths/interests/how they can best contribute to the team. A huge part of this is making sure that students become comfortable interacting with their peers and being themselves around their peers. Therefore, to see some students go from rarely interacting with their peers to then becoming comfortable enough to openly interact with their peers makes me very happy.

This feedback from parents is particularly meaningful to me because although I can often see changes in students’ confidence over the months, I only get to see them during Leaders UNITE. Of course, I definitely can see improvements in students’ participation, leadership, etc. throughout our sessions, but I don’t often get indication as to how this club affects students in their daily lives. Therefore, it is so nice to hear that there are meaningful differences in students’ confidence levels that are noticeable each and every day. This is the kind of impact we want to have on students- not just making them more comfortable with me or the idea of leadership, but helping to create a positive image of themselves and their abilities that lasts much longer than their time at Leaders UNITE.

I am so proud of the environment we have created, and by the fact that Leaders UNITE was able to make a meaningful impact on these students’ lives. I surely hope that the club can continue to do this for many years to come.

Excitement, active participation, and surprises at North Regional Library

Last week, we conducted our second session at North Regional Library in Durham. We were very excited to see students show up enthusiastically for our second session. As I walked into the building, I even heard one of the students say, “Oooh! Leaders UNITE!” Even though we had skipped a week because of the hurricane, and I had only told the students the name of the club once, I was so happy to hear them excited to participate! Even the boy who began participating at the end of our previous session was actively participating for our whole session today. It was very exciting to see! The students also seemed much more comfortable with me.

Today, we did the Hand Signs activity, and the students loved it! In this activity, one person is the assigned leader, and sees a description of a scenario/scene, which I have typed out for them. They must describe the scene to the other students, who all work together to guess and draw the scene correctly! However, there is one catch: the person describing the scene is not allowed to speak! In a way, this is like charades.

It was very fun and interesting to see how students chose to portray key words in their scenarios. I was very happy to see all of the students immediately and enthusiastically volunteering to be the leader for the activity, and even working together without hesitation with people they did not usually work together with. We did three new scenarios (the students worked together with me to craft fun, exciting scenarios!), and students rotated out who was the leader for the activity.  The three scenarios were as follows:

  1. Draw a forest with a bird on a tree, a lake on the left side, and a dog on the right side.
  2. Draw a school with a school bus on the left side, a kid playing basketball on the right side, and JayZ in the middle.
  3. Draw me at home eating dinner with a rabbit, while my brother is talking on his cellphone.

Here are some notes about how our activity went, which stood out to me as main ideas from each scenario.

  1. In the first scenario, directions were hard at first. It was hard to think about left and right in a context where students were speaking about more tangible words, such as forest or lake.
  2. Although I thought the second scenario would be the easiest, since all of the students go to school together, it was not as easy as I thought. Since the students had different things in common aside from school, and were not anticipating talking about school, it took a while to get school and school bus.
  3. In the third scenario, there were two difficult parts. First was eating dinner with a rabbit, specifically the idea that the rabbit is eating dinner with the students. While the rabbit part was easier to distinguish, the dinner was a bit harder, since it involved both food and a relative time of day. From there, the idea of “with” when saying the rabbit is eating “with” the person was difficult to portray and guess. Another hard one was brother. Again, since students had other things in common, “brother” was often mistaken for ethnicity, friend, partner, and more. After working together, continuing to persevere, and thinking of new out-of-the-box ideas while guessing and portraying the scene, our group was able to get the right answer!

It was exciting to see these students take on such an active role as leaders in our activity, and we are excited to continue giving them opportunities to practice their teamwork and leadership throughout the school year!

 

Advanced thinking at International Preschool of Raleigh

Leaders UNITE has been a huge success at the International Preschool of Raleigh thus far! During our session last week, students participated in the Creating Your Own Language activity. At first, I was a little bit nervous to do this activity with the younger students, since it was a bit advanced in the instructions. But this turned out to be a session that demonstrated huge growth, teamwork, and advanced thinking in the students at the International Preschool of Raleigh.

Since this was these students’ first non-drawing activity (though they drew on the paper a bit at first), I held the paper for them and helped them get started with the teamwork. One student began the activity, thinking of a really funny and interested way to say, “paper”– Tinko! I was very happy to see her think outside of the box and take initiative. Following that, many of the students had ideas for our next few words (“cat” and “flower”), but once we got to “toy,” the children had two ideas. One person wanted to call it “Kinger,” while another student wanted to call it, “Train.” To encourage teamwork and show students how to respect and appreciate everyone’s ideas, I suggested we combine both words to make the word for “toy,” leading us to call “toy” Kinger Train! Once we got to the next word, “friend,” I didn’t need to say anything about combining words- the students did it all by themselves! The second that two students had different ideas for a word for “friend,” one of the students suggested that we combine the two words. As we continued, the students kept combining their ideas, and even told one another, “That’s a great idea!” The students even wanted to keep doing the activity once time was up, and wanted to think of words for “crown,” “airplane,” and more! We loved to see the students working together, using advanced thinking, encouraging one another, and participating!

Creating Your Own Language IPR

 

1A

This was a model group. The students fully understood the concept of teamwork. In order to fulfill the requirements that all students should speak, some students split their sentences in half. Others added witty side-comments to lighten the mood. One group did a remarkable job of creating a summary that would appear on the App Store. All of the groups were very organized, finished within the time limit, and understood the concepts of organization, compromise, and teamwork.

The students said that usually in the classroom, they did not have designated leaders, but they instead used a lot of teamwork and compromise. Therefore, they were very accustomed to working on activities together. They also paid attention to one another and asked creative and valid questions to one another. This group was fun to work with and although they did not touch on aspects of leadership very much during their presentation, the students all understood the concept of teamwork and compromise. This group was very fun to work with, and I am excited to see what these young and intelligent students will do with leadership in the future.

1B

This group was very energetic, I must say. I could tell that all of them loved the project, but at the same time, they also kept talking during one another’s presentations. They had so much energy and did not know how to control it. The students had very creative ideas; however, similar to some of the previous groups, it became apparent that there was a lack of compromise amongst some of the groups with regards to the app. One group selected an outfit-chooser. This was a common app created by girls’ groups, but in some of the groups that contained girls and boys, it became apparent that the boys only agreed to do the app because they believed a compromise could not be formed. Although it seemed like the activity had been unbeneficial for these students, when I asked how they created their creative presentation, all of the students were able to point out what they wrote for the presentation. The group ended their presentation with a witty remark about how their app would be available in the app store within a few days.

Although the app idea would never be approved by teachers, some students came up with a creative app to help students cheat on homework assignments. Aside from the fact that they thought about everything- even if the teacher walks by while the student is using the app- I won’t say anything more about that specific app.

One group took a very creative route to the project which involved a great deal of teamwork, compromise, and subtle leadership. The group listed all of the apps that they liked, and then they called me over. They asked me whether they were allowed to combine real apps that they liked into one mega-app that had new and unique features. Although the purpose of the activity was for the groups to create their own apps, I allowed the group to do so because it was a new and creative idea. In order to access different features of their app, prospective users had to beat a game, etc. which meant that their app incorporated multiple skills into one app. It was very creative, and the logo was a combination of all of the apps’ logos. To make the app even more unique, they changed names such as Instagram and Snapchat into Instantgram and Snapdog. It was extremely well-planned!

This group’s discussion was very similar to that of the other groups. Aside from group that combined all of the different applications, every other group maintained a normal compromise, subtle leadership relationship.

5S

This group really got the idea of a presentation. The students made the presentations extremely enjoyable. One group started with rhetorical question regarding the purpose of the app. Another group mentioned a “review” of sorts that highlighted why their app was more effective than other apps of similar function. Within these two groups, they said that they all came up with the ideas together. They were ideal groups- they each stated many ideas and then eventually decided on one idea that encompassed all of their ideas into one. Then they each came up with their own witty ideas for the presentation. They finished within the time limit as well.

While two of the groups were ideal, one group remained problematic. In a group of three girls where one wanted to do next to nothing regarding leadership, the students could not agree on a single idea. They did not want to think and they did not want to compromise or come to any sort of consensus. When time was up, they suggested an app that one of the previous groups had mentioned. Even though they had another suggestion that was more creative, the students did not want to do the activity one bit. Although I still got across the point of leadership and teamwork with the majority of the class, there was nothing I could say to the group of girls that would make them care.

Yes, the students learned lessons about leadership during this class period, but I believe that I learned the most important lesson during this class period. I learned as long as someone listens, everything is okay. At first, I was upset that the girls were not interested in my project. It seemed like everyone else so far had at least enjoyed the project. However, these girls did not even pretend to enjoy the project. I was offended and felt like the students did not respect me. But at the same time, the two other groups loved the project and executed it perfectly. They listened, acted, and understood. They gleaned valuable information through this project that they can use during their school on a daily basis. When reflecting on this, I realized that it is most important to get my message across regardless of the amount of people listening. As long as at least someone gains knowledge from my teachings, then I have accomplished something. This is an important mentality to have with regards to leadership as well. As a leader, not everyone is going to agree with everything you say. Not everyone is going to appreciate you taking charge. However, it is important to help the group achieve a common goal, and it is equally important to know that as long as you act in a respectable manner and share your teachings, at least someone will listen.

2B

The students seemed very excited to do the project. They were all cheering when I said that they were going to create their own app. They asked if they can pick their groups after I said the groups would be by columns. I explained to them that the point of the project was to be in groups that didn’t exactly fit their friend group, interests, etc. Most groups finished within the 20 minutes, but some of the 5 groups had one or two things to complete after time was up. This was the first time that all of the groups had different ideas for their project and none of the ideas really overlapped among the groups. My favorite idea from the group was a mind reader that could tap into someone’s emotions when you hold the phone up to them.

I am not sure whether it is due to the age or maybe the closeness of the grade, but even though I separated the groups in ways that didn’t accommodate for close friend groups, all of the students managed to come up with ideas that everyone in the group enjoyed. It was great, but it also made the amount of discussion a bit less prominent. At least, that was what I thought until I asked the groups which person made the logo (or if everyone made it together) and in each group, only one person made the logo. I touched on the fact that since one person technically made the logo, that was some sort of leadership in and of itself. One person took charge to create a logo. That has some form of leadership within the group and definitely deserves some recognition. One girl answered the question perfectly, everyone acted as leaders for their own part of the project. She completely got the idea of how leadership fit into the project, and it was almost like she was echoing the words I had so many times spoken to other groups.

In this class, the students were less interested in asking one another questions about the other groups’ apps. However, the groups put a lot of effort into their apps and the creativity behind each of the apps. Overall, the students understood the idea of teamwork relatively well.

4CN

This group was by far the group that listened the most and the group that we got the point across to the best. One group took the idea of creativity to a whole new level. They went off of the fact that when writing down the word ‘purpose’ on the paper during the planning time, the person accidentally wrote “porpoise-” like the animal. After pointing out this funny mistake to me and the rest of the group, this group based their entire presentation and app on a porpoise that you must feed and play with during the game. The creativity in this class was excellent.

With this class, I was also able to get across a very important point regarding leadership. Within the boys’ groups and girls’ groups separately, the project was completed with subtle leadership but no designated leadership. However, in the groups that contained boys and girls, leadership was more prevalent in its natural form. Leadership was necessary in these groups because the group lacked a common goal and a common purpose. In cases where the group is not united about the goal, it is nearly impossible to complete a task until a common compromise or purpose is created. In order for this to occur, there must be some form of leadership. Someone must step up and create compromises, form plans, and direct the group in the correct direction for success. In the mixed gender groups, the members had different apps that they enjoyed using; therefore, they all envisioned a different app to create. In these groups, when I asked which people did which parts of the preparation, it was split. One person stepped into the position as leader and created the idea. Then another person took over the leadership role to create the logo, and the leadership torch continues to be passed.

While this seems like an effective method when perspectives and goals differ, this must be handled correctly. In one of the mixed gender groups, one of the girls took over the role as the leader, and the leadership role was then passed on to another girl who created the logo. However, in this situation, no one made a compromise. The girl created her own idea, and instead of rising to the occasion of compromise or taking on the leadership torch, the boys didn’t do anything. They didn’t take on the leadership role afterwards, and this lead to a final product that only reflected the ideas of half of the group. It is critical that in these situations, someone should take on the role of a subtle leader, trying to make a compromise and redirecting towards a common product.

Overall, this group did an effective job of completing the project, but the groups still maintained an appropriate amount of difficulties. However, difficulties are important for the growth of the group as well as individual development, and these difficulties allowed us to effectively get across the importance of leadership- both subtle and direct- within school activities.

5CN

I just finished the first activity. It went extremely well! I was a bit worried since the students were in 11th grade that they may not listen or may not have fun doing the activity, but I was wrong. They really enjoyed the activity and actually put a lot of effort into it. I ended up not having enough time to do all of the follow-up questions with the group, but I think they got the general gist of the whole thing during the course of the activity. One group finished rather quickly, and they even seemed to make the logo together instead of individually. Two of the other groups were on a relatively similar pace, but they were still not completely finished within the twenty minutes. Another group spent so much time deciding what to do, and they started actually answering the questions after 20 minutes. They just had a few issues working together and thinking of an app that they all would like. However, all of the presentations were excellent! The students really listened to me and completely followed through with what I wanted for the project. Their apps were fairly creative and the logos were very interesting.

In the group that finished on time, it seemed that all of the students worked well together. They all got out their phones at the same time to brainstorm about some of the apps that they most enjoyed and why. They all worked on the logo together, one person drawing and the other people coloring in the design. This group also followed the instruction that everyone needed to talk during the presentation. It seemed that these people had a clear goal in mind from the beginning, and this allowed them to successfully complete the activity without much problem. They also finished within the time limit, showing that they had good time management skills.

The other two groups worked together relatively well together, but it just took them a while to think of an idea. There was not really an issue with their teamwork, but they were not too consistent about their time management skills.

The fourth group was the most difficult. The students took up until the 20 minute mark just to figure out what they would do for their app. They did not really work together at all, and seemed to just be waiting for someone to do all of the work. The group appeared to not be very close friend-wise so maybe this contributed to the fact that they could not agree upon a common goal for the app. This seemed mostly attributed to the fact that the students did not seem very close to one another and therefore did not know of common interests, etc. that they could make an app out of.

Presentation wise, the groups did well. Only one group did not follow the guidelines that everyone had to speak during the presentation.