Leadership Day 2: Empowering Student Leaders in Middle School

You can’t make the term “project management” sound fun. Or cool. Or like anything you want to think about ever. Every consenant sounds harsh and the concept sounds like something out of The Office.

So with that said, I had a blast talking about project management with 30 middle school kids.

First semester, we instituted our first leadership day (blogged about here). In classic YIS fashion, we decided to up our game and take 30 kids off campus to talk about project management. Now this sounds insane/boring. Instead, it was one of the best days I’ve spent with middle schoolers.

The goal:

To help students learn how to manage big projects that they are responsible for outside of the classroom.

The who:

Students who have been identified as leaders. This was the student council, members of the service committee, and members of GIN-CAS (Global Issues Network-Community & Service). Some of the kids didn’t know why they had been identified as leaders. But teachers and admin saw something special in these kids and so they were invited. It a wide-variety of kids.

Defining Leadership

I’ve come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us. We’ve made into something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world. And we’ve taken this title of leader, and we treat it as if it’s something that one day we’re going to deserve, but to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do that we’ve convinced ourselves that those are the only things worth celebrating, and we start to devalue the things that we can do every day, and we start to take moments where we truly are a leader and we don’t let ourselves take credit for it, and we don’t let ourselves feel good about it –

Drew Dudley- Ted Talk, Everyday Leadership

Some of the kids didn’t know why they had been identified as leaders. But teachers and admin saw something special in these kids and so they were invited. It a wide-variety of kids, from all grades and different social groups. Susie found this great TED talks, which helped us as adults shape what we wanted our students to be: everyday leaders. This helped our kids realize that they don’t have to be the most vocal, or outgoing, person to be a leader. They just had try to make a small difference. This seems manageable to a middle school kid.

The Newspaper Challenge

Most teachers who has ever been to a workshop based around team building/creativity have done the newspaper challenge. You have a limited time and limited resources to build a freestanding structure. For teachers this is old news. For kids, this is new and exciting.

PicMonkey Collage

This was used to talk about all the aspects of project management that we had identified: success criteria, planning, time-management, teamwork, and overcoming problems.

Project Management System

I just added the word system to make it an even more boring phrase. Click here if you want to see all the cool work the kids did to discuss all the phases of managing a big project. It’s way more exciting than anything I can time

Project Work Time

The afternoon was spent working on any upcoming projects.

  • Student Council: Assemblies, Sports Week, and Movie Night
  • Student Service Committee: All-school service fair
  • GIN-CAS: Red and White Concert

PicMonkey Collage

They worked so hard. And they worked because they had something important and something that mattered.

Final Reflections 

  • We need to give our kids time to do these projects we are asking them to do. At YIS we turn a lot of control over to the kids. They run assemblies, put on fundraising concerts, and organize all sorts of things. But like adults, they need the time to do this. To take them off campus and to to give them 3 hours to just work together was incredibly valuable.
  • Project management may not be sexy, but it’s necessary. I’ve already noticed that my student council has been more self-sufficient when it comes to planning. They know what they need to do and they do it.

    This is entirely student generated. I wasn't even shared on it until last week.

    This is entirely student generated. I wasn’t even shared on it until last week.

  • I’m so grateful to my school in how much they support this initiative. The PTSA who helps fund it, the always fantastic Adam Clark, the get-things-done Susie Clifford, my principal and Head of School who took time out of their day to stop by and work with the kids. It’s such a gift to work in a place where the default is “yes, and what can I do to help?”
  • Yesterday, the PE department identified 15 kids (different from the ones who we took on Leadership Day) to help run Elementary Sports Day.
    Grade 8 at ES Field Day

    Grade 8 at ES Field Day

    That means that we have about 45 kids identified as potential leaders, all with different skills. That is a powerful investment into their future of our school.

  • There is nothing out there to help support middle school student leaders. Susie and I ran a workshop at the EARCOS Middle School Student Conference in April.In preparing for this session, neither of us could find any resources for supporting middle school students as leaders. And there should be. So for anyone out there looking for stuff here is our presentation.


  • The Red and White Dance last week and the Service Fair this week were awesome. Kids had all sorts of roles…behind the scenes and up on stage. They did it all. And I truly because our job in middle school it to help them learn and then trust our kids to do amazing things. Because they can do awesome things. Grade 8 running the concert like a boss

Red and White Concert


This is written as part of my Professional Growth Plan focusing on Student Leadership

About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
This entry was posted in PGP, StuCo and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Leadership Day 2: Empowering Student Leaders in Middle School

  1. Pingback: Project One School: Empowering Kids Two Days at a Time | Rebekah Madrid

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s