Written by Kristy Pierce, Adviser, Troy Athens High School
CHALLENGE THEM— More often than not, we are working with the best of the best kids. They are smart, willing, and competent. So why do we often allow them (and ourselves) to be satisfied with the status quo? Push your kids to be creative. Reinvent some of the yearly events you host that may have become tired. If you’re satisfied with the events you currently host, then consider adding a layer to one of your big weeks. Every year for the past five years, we have added one new fundraising event to our annual Charity Week—the results have been incredible. Not only have we nearly doubled the amount of money we raise, but the kids truly grow from the process. It forces them to think critically, troubleshoot unexpected problems that inevitably arise, and it encourages them to take chances. And as an added bonus, I have found that brand new events seem to garner the most pride for both you and your council.
KNOW THEIR INDIVIDUAL STRENGTHS—Not every kid on your council is well suited for every task that needs to be accomplished. Play to their strengths. Place them in roles where you know they can thrive. The kid who can make a killer promotional video may not be the same as the kid you want to propose a new activity to your administration. Set them up for success by giving them responsibilities that are suited to their strengths. We are trying something new this year where we hand-select one chairperson and then choose the other by chance. Our goal is to put the right people in the right places, while still offering the opportunity for new talent to emerge.
PRAISE THEM—There’s absolutely no doubt that I hold my student council kids to a higher standard than I do the rest of my students. I expect a tremendous amount from them. But what I often need to remind myself is that they’re still kids, and they need recognition and encouragement. Heck, I’m a grown adult and I still need those things. Personally, I like to praise kids a few different ways. In front of the council I like to publicly recognize the student who is doing the behind the scenes work that no one else is even aware is happening (the one who bought the supplies or went around after school talking to teachers). It’s important that those kids know that someone sees their efforts. I’m also a big fan of the twitter shout out. And finally, I love writing the little note that simply says, “you’re doing a great job—our council is better because of you.” Praise is important. It’s a simple fact that people (young and old) are more willing to continue putting forth an effort when they feel appreciated.
INVEST IN THEM—As advisors we are given the incredible opportunity to play the role of mentor to a group of really awesome kids. Learn about them. Find out what their interests are beyond student council. Show up at their tennis match or orchestra concert—you don’t have to stay the entire time. Even the quickest of appearances will pay dividends. When they drop by your classroom after school, listen to what they have to say. Embrace the opportunity to build a relationship with them. Talk to them about their individual leadership style—tell them about the strengths you see in them, and then challenge them to do things that will help them to grow as leaders and people. I realize that most of our leadership kids are already headed down a positive life path; and for the most part, they have it pretty much together. But that doesn't mean they don’t need, or want, a mentor. I guarantee that if a student feels connected to you as an advisor, they will work harder for you. It’s human nature—we aim to please the people we love.
This list is by no means exhaustive. It is merely my offering, advisor to advisor, that comes with the well wishes of a fantastic new school year.