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Wells Middle School Leadership Elective Inspires Students to Community Service

March 8, 2012

“The task of a leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Henry Kissinger – Diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize recipient 1973.

These words ring loud and true every third period in a classroom at Wells Middle School as directed by teacher Adair Spence. What initially started as an adjunct activity for a few students has developed into a full-fledged elective class. In its earliest form, the concept of leadership was an ad-hoc activities program. Adair and her colleague, Karey Ronnow, would frequently give up their preparation periods to work with students that had a desire to provide service to their school and community. Today, Ms. Spence has a classroom of students that meets daily to develop programs for the betterment of this school site. Adair attained her B.A. in Politics and Women’s Studies, a Masters in Teaching Leadership and her teaching credential from St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga. She began her teaching career at Wells Middle School in 2007.

Today, she provides instruction for two 8th grade CORE sections and the Leadership elective. recently had the opportunity to visit Ms. Spence’s classroom and to share in her students’ daily experience. Is the Leadership class continuous throughout the entire year or is it limited to specific reporting periods?

Adair Spence

Adair Spence: “Leadership is a year-long course. While students are constantly working on projects, there are lessons on what a positive leader looks like and what leadership qualities represent in practice. As the year goes on, the students gain more leadership qualities, especially trust, and they are given more and more freedom.” As their instructor, what are the goals / takeaways that you have in mind for your students?

Spence: “In a word, responsibility. I want the students to learn what it means to follow through. If you say that you are going to do something, do it. All too often, people make promises that they do not follow through with. Obviously, not all ideas work or come to fruition, but it should never be because of a lack of responsibility.” Do you set standards for the students in terms of their participation or do they seem to be naturally self-motivated?

Spence: “Students are always motivated when it comes to their own ideas. I have not set too many standards when the students are working on their own projects. On the flip side, if the students are being asked to help with a project that they did not conceive, I often set standards and goals. A way to help with participation, on such projects, is through the community hours that each student must fulfill. Every student must perform at least nine hours of community service per quarter. If the student performs more than 22 hours per semester, I take them on a field trip. This year we are hoping to visit Pixar in Emeryville and the San Francisco Museum of Science.” Finally, as a teacher, what are you receiving from this entire experience?

Spence: “It may sound cliché, but it’s much more than the students. Their ideas and zest for life are infectious. I am inspired by them all the time. I am inspired to be a better teacher and to be a better person. How can one not be inspired when their students are willing to make baby blankets for a shelter or raise money for cancer research? Quite frankly, I am lucky to have them.”

To understand the student experience, we reached out to two that are enrolled in the class. Morgan Seely and Callan Jackman are 7th graders in the Leadership Elective class. We wanted to learn their perspective on what they have learned through this class. How has this class met or exceeded your expectations?

Callan Jackman and Morgan Seely

Callan Jackman: “It’s been my favorite class and it is more than I thought that it would be.”

Morgan Seely: “I feel that it has given me an opportunity to help my school outside of my regular classes. Our community projects have really made a difference.” What have you gained by being involved in the Leadership class?

Jackman: “It has given me the confidence to speak in front of others. It has also taught me lessons in how to cooperate with other people.”

Seely: “I’ve learned that there are so many ways that we can make a difference within our community. We are making a positive difference!” Do both of you plan on enrolling in Leadership next year?

Both: “Definitely, YES!” would like to thank Adair Spence and her students for allowing a peek inside of her Leadership classroom. A similar program is concurrently occurring at Fallon Middle School with Ms. Natalie Young. These are examples of programs that are benefitting not only our school district students, but our entire Dublin community.

Related articles on student leadership:

Wells Middle School Leadership Elective Community Service Project

Wells Middle School Leadership Elective Community Service Project