This post was originally published as an article in the Monaro Post newspaper. Dr Andrew Bell is the principal of Snowy Mountains Grammar School.
When was the last time you asked, “how can I support my child in becoming a young leader?” A young person’s school years provide a vital array of opportunities for personal character development. Dr Andrew Bell is an education leadership professional, with over 22 years of experience as a teacher and school principal. Dr Bell is passionate about providing leadership pathways within the school environment, to help students learn the skills needed to thrive in a modern world.
These are his tips for supporting your young leader at school:
- Foster passion
When students are in an environment where they feel safe to explore their passion, the transition into a leadership role becomes an organic process. “Allowing students to be themselves also creates a space in which they can thrive,” says Dr Bell. “Leaders do not exist to fill the void of their predecessors. Support your child as they find their passion at school, and whether it’s art, or football, or debating, their dedication will be recognised.”
- Encourage external learning
A student leader doesn’t need to have the loudest voice in the room, however the ability to engage well with others can help. Luckily, many elements of leadership, like public speaking, can be learned. Dr Bell encourages parents to help their child connect leadership skills with purpose. Students can join leadership programs such as those run by UN Youth, complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, or even become a member of the Snowy Monaro Regional Youth Council!
- Provide support and balance
The school term can be a whirlwind for many students, so parents play an important role in providing support and balance. “Become your child’s biggest champion,” advises Dr Bell. “When you’re aware of your child’s achievements, you can both commend them for their hard work and recognise when they may be over-extending themselves in a particular area.” Sometimes we all need a gentle reminder to check in on how we’re prioritising our time and energy!
- Build self-awareness
Self-awareness is key in developing a growth mind-set. Curiosity and a questioning mind allows young leaders to build new skills, gain an understanding of social and cultural dynamics, and cultivate informed opinions on key topics. “When our young leaders start to question things about themselves and the world, this curiosity stimulates the need to act,” says Dr Bell. A family meal is the perfect place for discussion. When asking about school, encourage your child to share their thoughts on an event or topic studied that day, and share yours too.
- Find role models
Children learn by example, so it can be reassuring to have the support of adults and peers. Encourage your child to find an older student or staff member with an insight into their area of interest, to be a mentor or coach. “With the right role model, your young leader can benefit the experience of another, who will gently guide them in the right direction,” says Dr Bell. “Not only can a role model give great practical advice, they can also provide an example of leadership that your child can identify with.”
All children are different, but each has the ability to develop strong leadership skills. As you and your child look towards the 2019 academic year, consider a school that will allow your young leader can grow and flourish within a supportive educational environment.