What does it mean to be a leader at Severn? To speak at the podium, shine bright on the stage, or score the winning point on the field? Those accomplishments are extraordinary, but leadership in our community has evolved to include so much more. It's also the student who demonstrates emotional intelligence and amplifies the work of their peers. Another who embraces a growth mindset and is intellectually curious. And those who see problems in the world and seek to make change for the better. These are the qualities the world needs from leaders today. And after working together during the summer Leadership Lab Retreat, our upper schoolers are up to the challenge; they are ready to go All In.
What is the Leadership Lab Retreat?
The retreat involves a series of workshops to develop leadership skills, talk about issues at school, and praise the positives while brainstorming ways to improve. It's also an opportunity for students to mix outside of their typical circles and build a stronger sense of community. The retreat begins with a shared meal on Thursday evening, a simple but important ritual to foster togetherness among the large group. From there, the participants spend the next two and a half days learning strategies to make the Upper School the best it can be. At the end, they choose an adaptive challenge, or open-ended goal, to work toward throughout the year.
Exploring Self Identity
This ice breaker activity, adapted from a lesson in the Health and Wellness curriculum, involved exploring individual and group identities while making connections to how they shape and inform lives. After thinking about which identities they hold in personal, cultural, and social contexts, students considered questions like:
Which of your identities do you think about most often?
Which of your identities do you think about least often?
Which of your identities would you like to learn more about?
Which of your identities have the strongest effect on how you perceive yourself?
What identities have the greatest effect on how others perceive you?
During this workshop, held indoors rather than in the Stine Environmental Center due to rain, students worked together to solve several physical and intellectual challenges. The goal of this seminar was to put students in positions where they needed to:
Manage their emotions
Read the emotions of others
Communicate effectively by knowing when to talk and when to listen
Seek and employ the collective wisdom of the group
Cultivating Belonging Through Leadership: A Listening Framework
During this seminar, students practiced conversation techniques using questions from The Coaching Habit by author Michael Bungay Stanier. Using this framework increases feelings of belonging, improves connections between the listener and the speaker, and provides deeper insights for the speaker. The goal is to slow down and listen in a way that affirms others. The framework includes prompts like:
What's on your mind? And what else?
What's the real challenge here for you?
What do you want? (said with genuine curiosity)
How can I help?
If you're saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
What was most useful for you?
Thriving Clubs, Thriving Community
As posited by author Daniel Coyle in The Culture Code: The Secret of Highly Effective Groups, our Summer Faculty Read this year, a thriving community has three critical components: safety, vulnerability, and purpose. During this seminar, students used thinking routines, like "Think, Pair, Share" and "Visible Thinking," to explore these concepts in relation to leading clubs. Questions included:
What can we do better to ensure that everyone feels heard and included? How can we demonstrate interest in others' thoughts?
You or someone you were working with didn’t feel heard. How did it affect your/their willingness to participate in the activities? Are there things you wish you or the person this affected had done differently?
Think of a time when you or someone you know led a project and they did not entertain suggestions from members or make people feel heard. Do you think the product might have been better had others been allowed to collaborate? Did people lose enthusiasm for the project or leave the group?
All In This Together
With the seminars fresh in their minds, Leadership Lab attendees deliberated on the final day to reach a consensus for this year's adaptive challenge. In a Zoom meeting this past Tuesday, representatives from the Leadership Lab, Cherop Soi '22, Rachel Weinberg '22, Barbara Isper '22, Rohan Lakhanpal '23, Anna D'Amore '22, and Fionn Kinsella '23, gave a presentation about the entire process and urged their peers to embrace the challenge to go All In.
"All In is about giving 100% of what you can give. All in for yourself, all in for your friends, your family, your community, your sports teams, and your clubs. All in for game day, all in for class, all in for spirit week. To the freshmen, going all in for your first year. To the seniors, being all in for their final year. This year is about going all in, because we are all in this together." — Fionn Kinsella '23