Someone recently asked me, "What is so special about your school? Why should I send my child to WHPS?" You might imagine my response would be to rattle off a litany of tangible items, such as our school’s Science & Nature Center, Engineering curriculum, Responsive Classroom, or the number of hours our teachers spend on professional development each year. To be sure, these are all indispensable elements of our program. However, there is one thing we do that I believe supersedes, or perhaps grows out of, all of this. We help children find their voice and become leaders!
This first means developing self-confidence and becoming self-directed. Beginning in the preschool, leadership (of self) is explicitly taught to our youngest students. Whether creating their own classroom rules, learning to make their own choices instead of imitating their friend, or deciding how to independently work during centers, students learn that leadership means doing the right thing. Beginning in our earliest elementary grades, students take on more formal leadership opportunities. TK and Kindergarten students learn to initiate the quiet signal—getting the attention of the whole school community—and speak at Morning Assembly. They learn how to hold themselves in public, how to project their voices, and how to feel comfortable in front of a crowd. They begin learning to adlib as they pull Bucket Filler cards on Fridays and call up students who were caught doing something good.
Elementary students also practice for the classroom job of Greeter, getting up from their seat the moment they see a guest walk into the room. They begin with: “Welcome to Room ___ , I’m __________.” Next, the Greeter puts out his/her hand, offering a firm handshake, and goes on to tell the guest what they are working on at that moment. Some of the older students go a step further and explain how they use their Leadership Binder or may even conduct a mini-SLC on the spot. If you were fortunate enough to attend the elementary spring talent show, you saw the students’ resulting confidence on full display. It was evident not only in the songs, dances, comedy routines and science experiments, but also in the stage presence of the student emcees, and students backstage, managing props and the sound system.
And as our students graduate and go on to some of the city’s most elite middle schools, they demonstrate that they ARE leaders. They have a strong sense of right vs. wrong and choose to stand up for what they believe is right, they exude confidence, they demonstrate strong public speaking skills, and they positively influence others to make good choices. I could not be more proud of our students and the opportunity to work with them in a school that leverages all its unique ways of helping children find their voice and become leaders!