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Panther Pause: Learning outside the classroom

Kurt Soderberg is principal at St. Croix Central High School

Like the change of seasons we experience in Wisconsin, the start of another school year marks many opportunities for change. One of the best aspects of being in education is having a front row seat to the amazing year-to-year growth in the young men and women with whom we work. The changes in height, hair style, or interests can be obvious but there are other changes that may be tougher to notice.

While academic growth is of vital importance to the success of our students, two other areas are equally important and should be accounted for, measured, and celebrated on a regular basis. Those "other" changes come in the form of increased capacity to provide leadership and an understanding of the need for service to others.

Often times we can easily identify and appreciate the academic learning that takes place inside the classroom. What is not as easily identified is the development of leadership and service in our students. As a school we want to foster the growth of leadership and service inside and outside our classrooms. How do we intentionally foster these qualities?

1. Adults need to be the model for our students. Having adults intentionally model and teach leadership and service inside the classroom is a key aspect in the long term success of our students. These qualities provide depth and meaning to any academic area or activity.

2. Opportunity to lead and serve must come in the form of a wide variety of activities, clubs, and events. We strive to find, develop, and support multiple "opportunities" to build leadership and service. Recently we added a group called Pathfinders. The Pathfinders group is made up of juniors and seniors who volunteered to help freshmen become acclimated and comfortable at the high school. In addition, we've moved away from the student council model and moved to a student senate model. The structure of the SCC Student Senate will allow more students to develop leadership skills in service of their school. These groups, along with many other groups develop leadership and service among our students.

3. Permission. Sometimes all it takes for a young person to embrace these qualities is for an adult to encourage them or give them "permission" to lead and serve.

Regardless of what role we play in the lives of our young people we must continue to foster leadership and service through action and opportunity. If we combine that with an excellent education our students will be more than ready to achieve great things.