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Principals Have the Power to Encourage Leadership: The Anti-Bully

Leadership is not a rank or a position. Leadership is a service to be given. — Simon Sinek

Leadership comes in all sizes, shapes, colors, and ages.  That’s the message being given at P.S. 23, a wonderful elementary school on Staten Island that I recently had the privilege to visit.P.S. 23 takes leadership seriously.  As part of The Leader In Me program, each student from Kindergarten through 5th grade is taught the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R. Covey.Often when I walk into a school and see motivational messages on the walls, I think, “that’s really nice”…but do they actually promote this to the students in a more meaningful way?  Well, I got my answer during the assembly that I led about One Can Count. (Thanks to Senator Lanza for making One Can Count available in Staten Island elementary schools.) When I asked questions about respect and stepping up for one another, I got answers like “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”  Or “it’s about trust.”  These are sophisticated concepts for such young students, but kids are smart and when you treat them like they are, they rise to the occasion.Before the principal, Mr. Paul Proscia,  introduced me, he spoke with the children first.  He set it up by reminding them that they are all leaders.  (By the way, he was not talking to them like children.  He was talking to them like intelligent adults in the making.   It was a sea of little faces but their brains were active and engaged.)  He is helping them change the perception of leadership by explaining that leaders are everywhere —  as construction workers, business people, police officers, teachers, nurses, cafeteria workers.  “The president is a leader but you don’t have to be president to be considered a leader.”

Sound simplistic?  It’s not.  These are messages every 5 year-old and up needs to hear in school.  Each child needs to be seen, heard and given the feeling that their unique personalities and talents make them leadership material.

At P.S. 23, they are given the opportunity to be leaders, including being a “Leader of the Month.”  The rubric that decides if you get this honor is not based on grades.  It’s based on showing respect, helping others, academic effort and using their talents in productive ways.

Mr. Proscia made One the Book of the Month for the entire school.  Before I even made my visit, they understood what the book was about.  It’s about stepping up.  It’s about being yourself.  It’s about inclusion.  It’s about leadership.

Why should a school make leadership and social emotional learning a priority?  The children do better in school.  That’s it.  Bottom line.  They become their “best self.”

Sometimes it just takes One.  

P.S. 23 is a One.