Submitted by Ethan Fisher ’16
It’s not uncommon to hear a sophomore groan or complain when LEAD classes are mentioned, Tuesday night sessions led by upperclassmen on leadership and development. One student called it an outright waste of his time, asking why we should all be taught how to “lead” when some of us just want to learn math. I have heard plenty of people say similar things. While I understand that Tuesday nights sometimes get busy, I personally find that opinion a little extreme. The EnACT program gives its students a look into how laws are made, even if the topics of their programs aren’t ones in which they are particularly interested. Having a better understanding of legislation can help anyone who wants to be a more informed voter. One student felt that SoCENT (Social Entrepreneurship) taught him how to start a social movement or business, a skill he values. The program is obviously not a blatant waste of our time.
However, I believe that, in order for LEAD to really engage IMSA sophomores, the core modules should focus less on the “evolution” of leadership and different styles of leadership, but should instead focus on more hands-on activities. Instead of teaching the students theories, let them work in small groups and collaborate. Teach them interpersonal skills; don’t just tell them to communicate appropriately.
Additionally, central to the IMSA mission statement are the words, “to ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds.” When many sophomores come to IMSA, they are afraid to speak their mind and participate in class, and this carries over into our LEAD classes. When students don’t participate, are they truly learning how to lead? More group activities give more students the chance to participate. It is with a combination of investigation, knowledge, and experience that students are best taught a new skill. This same process is applied to our MI and SI courses; why not LEAD as well?
Even with its minor faults, the LEAD program remains a great opportunity offered by IMSA. Not many high schools can say that their students work with legislators or are taught how to create change in their communities. Classes such as gender roles and ethics change and refine our worldviews, and other sessions give students the chance to brainstorm and collaborate. The program also gives upperclassmen experience in teaching, which is valuable regardless of the profession they choose. Most important, it gives students who are willing to put in the effort the skills that enable them to step up in their res halls, clubs, and more, and I have always found that to be crucial to success in anything.