Peer Leaders, A Channel For Change In Your School

In many of my programs, I model much of my teachings around a book called, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. The main idea of this book is “how to create an epidemic.”

Last week I had the pleasure of training 60 peer leaders in Rumson, N.J. All 60 of these kids are entering 8th grade. Each one of them went through an application
process and was awarded this leadership position in their school.  

I began the program by asking them why each of them wanted to be a peer leader. I got a range of answers. Here is what some of them said:

  • it would look good on their college application
  • they wanted to help people
  • they remembered how it felt to work with a peer leader when they were young
  • they thought they would be good at it
  • their friends were doing it

While some of the teens seemed to be embarrassed to tell me their motives, I assured them that as long as they were willing to listen, learn and assist others, they would have a great impact on the culture and climate of their school.  

As adults, we know the model of electing a group of influential people to spread a message or help create a movement is an extremely effective way of reaching, educating and working with a large number of people. Many of us have had the experience of accomplishing things on a large scale as a result of sitting in as a
committee member, a council member, an advisory board, a manager or a congressman!

In many of my programs, I model much of my teachings around a book called, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. The main idea of this book is “how to create an epidemic.” In the case of Forrestdale School in Rumson, NJ, the “epidemic” is how to create a positive school climate. 

1. It’s how to address bullying and cyberbullying

2. How to support a classmate who is a victim 

3. How to make sure a “joke” is not really hurting someone’s feelings or self-esteem.  

In order to really make a difference, it is imperative that we find the “right people” to help us do that…and that is what we found in this amazing group of students!

In order to create a positive school climate, there are several things that go into “how” peer leaders can teach and model that to all the students in the school.  Our program consists of many ideas, theories, lessons and activities…two full days of training. The Rumson community is extremely lucky to have school
administration, staff and a parent organization that supports 21st Century
Character Education in the 4th – 8th grade community.

Here is what we focused on Day 1:

• Why you want to become a peer leader?

• What it takes to be a leader

• How to create a bond and trust within the group

• How to build a bond with others so that you are in a position to help and influence positive behavior

• What is active listening? How do you get kids to share?

•  What does it mean to “notice” something?

•  What can you do to help new students to the school?

• What can you do to help the incoming 4th Graders to the school?

• Tips for lesson planning and classroom tricks

Later in September, these students will be exposed to the second half of the Generation Text Online peer leadership program which includes:

  • Review of program orientation, successes, obstacles, accountability
  • Videos of specific bullying events and discussions of each person’s possible role
  • Facilitating and Role Playing the Generation Text Online 7 step program to stop bullying, teasing, harassment, intimidation and create a positive school
  • Operation GenText (how to write lesson plans)
  • Peer Leaders write lesson plans, find screen shots and create videos for

So why does our Peer Leadership program work?  How is it that we can teach a bunch of kids to change the climate of the school? This is the best way I can explain it:

Tell me and I’ll forget.

Show me, and I may not remember.

Involve me, and I’ll understand.

-Native American Proverb

Jill Brown, Generationtextonline

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