“We know for certain our students are going to need deep self-knowledge, a very broad capacity to handle complexity, and very finely tuned emotional intelligence.” -Danette Morton, Head of Middle School
eadership isn’t a role or a title. It’s a mindset. A way of being. Across business and society, expectations around who will be a leader and what those leaders will do are changing. At Westminster, too, student leadership opportunities are evolving. In preparing our students for the world they will inherit, we aren’t letting them wait for graduation before figuring out how to lead in a worldchanging way. “We’re following a societal model toward distributed, collaborative, team-oriented leadership,” says Danette Morton, Head of Middle School. “This is not the world of the singular ‘hero leader’ who must be extroverted and charismatic. We’re embracing the reality that all of our kids will have the opportunity to lead in myriad ways.” Creativity is what more than 1,500 CEOs identified as the most important skill for future leaders in a 2009 IBM study. In an increasingly uncertain and complex world, skills like adaptability, self-awareness, and the ability to span boundaries and collaborate were cited over and over again as valuable for leadership. These skills are developed all over campus at Westminster.
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Chapel Council members are responsible for every aspect of monthly chapel assemblies and the Middle School’s annual celebration of Christian Emphasis Week. These posters illustrated the “Second Chances” theme during a recent assembly.
Another shift, from leadership being held by a select few to being shared, is challenging long-held assumptions about work, society, and social change. Because of the opportunities they have at Westminster, our students are ready to seize the opportunities this change presents. “Leadership is a big part of the ‘so what?’ of the Westminster experience,” Danette says. “Our students have been given this great opportunity and great education, so what are they going to do with it? We can’t hold in our minds what challenges or opportunities they’re going to face, but we expect they will require leadership on their part. We know for certain they’re going to need deep self-knowledge, a very broad capacity to handle complexity, and very finely tuned emotional intelligence.” Each Westminster student will answer the question of “so what?” for themselves after graduation, choosing from innumerable ways to become leaders in the world. In the same way, students are increasingly taking an active role in shaping their educations. Teachers, particularly in Lower School, are turning toward assetbased learning, an approach that uses students’ existing skills and interests to engage them more deeply in learning.
Middle School Chapel Council The Middle School Chapel Council is more than a group that plans monthly assemblies for their division. It’s a place where Middle School Wildcats learn to lead. The group is split into teams that are in charge of different aspects of the chapel assemblies, like music, words, drama, and even a “details” team. Every team has an appointed lead who works with their area team and alongside the other leads. This structure, now being implemented in other leadership groups on campus, allows Chapel Council members to take risks while still being accountable for getting things done. “If you put kids in charge of people, that’s where they really learn leadership. It’s about learning
how to interact, how to take an idea and make it work, and how to root for the success of others,” says Middle School Chaplain and Director of Student Life Tina McCormick. “When a 12-year-old learns to say, ‘I’m going to let someone else’s idea move forward and do everything I can to make it succeed,’ that’s being a leader. A servant leader, even.” Chapel Council members come up with ideas for monthly chapel assemblies and the annual Christian Emphasis Week. They’re also responsible for putting those ideas into action. “Leadership development often doesn’t go beyond asking kids for their opinions. Most of the time, as adults, people ask for kids’ opinions, then we feel like we have
to make it happen. We’re robbing them of the chance to have that experience,” Tina says. One of the most elaborate events Chapel Council has planned in recent years was a carnival for the entire Middle School the last day of a "Fruits of the Spirit"themed Christian Emphasis Week, which Tina describes as “all-out joy,” making it a successful and memorable way to close out the week. What’s the No. 1 takeaway students get from being part of Chapel Council? Confidence, Tina says: “It’s about realizing that your ideas, your opinions, your ability to motivate others can get a lot done; you just need the chance.”
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Westminster answers the call to develop leaders for a changing world.