Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Rainy Day and Some Leadership

Hello! Hope everyone is having a lovely Wednesday. The weather here is unpredictable today (I should know better) and is punishing me for this morning’s poor shoe choice. So, with some raisin looking toes and a squeaky theme song, I trekked over to meet A for our weekly meeting to discuss our lesson on Leadership. I figured I’d write a little about this one, as it has been, by far, the most challenging lesson for us to create. Such an important issue that integrates so many of the concepts we have been working to teach throughout the entirety of the curriculum! Initially, this lesson was overwhelming. How could we possibly narrow down the vast topic of leadership?! We discussed the many angles we could take and the many vital ideas we wanted to share. We decided, after admittedly procrastinating for a little while, to essentially just start anywhere.

We narrowed it down to the basics of what core components comprise leadership. Over a span of two weeks and some “aha” insight from L, we came up with three integral points of focus: communication, active listening, and responsible decision-making. We decided that the best way to teach leadership is to practice leadership. Another challenge we face with this topic, in fact, among all the lesson topics, is that there is a fine line between “teaching” and “inflicting” ideas. We need to consistently maintain awareness and sensitivity to cultural differences. Additionally, this knowledge needs to be invited by the CYEC, the staff, and these children for it to be absorbed and maximally beneficial. So, needless to say, we have some work to do regarding indigenous knowledge (upon our arrival, we will be working closely with the staff to gain this knowledge and appropriately mold the curriculum to embrace it).

Ultimately, like much of our work, we will be relying on the views of these children shape our approach to this topic of leadership We have prepared a variety of activities, related to communication and active listening (everyone enjoys a good game of “telephone” don’t they?), and understanding the importance of taking responsibility as a leader to influence positive decision making. This lesson also discusses leadership characteristics each of us possesses, how to better develop these qualities, and whom we look to as inspiration for the development of our “inner leader.” In this lesson, we included the distinction between “hearing” and “listening,” hoping to influence an appreciation of “listening” as being essential to “good” leadership. Active listening is also a fundamental technique valuable in the maintenance of any healthy relationship.

Historically, political corruption has been such a predominant struggle afflicting Kenya. With a primarily positive focus and through guided discussion and insight from the students, in this lesson we hope to distinguish between what makes someone a “good/positive” leader versus a “negative” leader. Maintaining belief that much of Kenya’s future and potential leadership lies in the hands of these children, we wanted to be sure to include the importance of how a “good” leader acts as an admirable representative and makes decisions for the good of the group. A and I thought it was vital to explain that a leader is responsible for being a good example, as leaders are often individuals many look up to. Most importantly, we wanted these children to strive to be kind of leaders THEY would look up to.

As we will be ending each of our lessons with a reflection and goal setting assignment, I will challenge you to participate in this lesson’s reflection exercise.

        - Reflect on your past experiences and think about the following questions:
o      When have I been a leader in the past?
o      What characteristics enable me to be a leader?
o      What characteristics would I like to further develop?
o      How could I accomplish this?
o      How would I like to use these leadership characteristics in the future?

To conclude this post, I also wanted to share that I received an email from L unveiling a potential title to our curriculum! I was so excited to finally change the folder on my computer’s desktop from the very ambiguous “OUR CURRICULUM” to something with actual meaning. As of now, the title of our curriculum will be…

Nafsi ya Maendeleo: Akili ni Mali Curriculum
(Self Development: Knowledge is Power Curriculum)

How fitting! Now… if I only knew how to correctly pronounce it. Already added to the “to do” list :). Well, I’m off to class for the afternoon – have a wonderful Wednesday!

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