Country Life Blog

Intentional Leadership: A Head's Blog

Sitting in my office Thursday with the window open, a student’s voice announces, “I just need body parts and a knife.”

Springing up to investigate, it turns out that the 8th Grade is designing the Halloween Haunted pathways again this year, intending to create some scary outdoors fun for the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Grade this Friday–an annual tradition.

Using the collaborative tools they have learned  over their years in The Country School’s Elmore Leadership Program, these 8th Graders are creating, planning, and defining what they will create in each frightful area, at what time, and with what materials. I walk away proud–and relieved that there is no real blood.
These students are models of the school’s Elmore Leadership Signature Program, a school-wide, multi-year initiative that develops students into civic-minded citizens who will become tomorrow’s leaders, practicing our Country School core values of kindness, respect, and responsibility. All students, from PreSchool-Grade 8, learn the power of teamwork, collaboration, empathetic listening, and appreciative inquiry by taking turns leading and letting others lead, learning to maximize the talents and backgrounds of all members of a team.

Earlier in the day I watched veteran teacher Kate Treat guide a PreSchool student to his mailbox cubby and wait patiently and patiently and patiently while he tried to figure out how to fit an 8½” wide sheet of stiff cardstock paper in a 6” wide mailbox. I would have jumped more quickly to help the student, but Mrs. Treat knew to let him figure it out and so gain the sense of satisfaction.

That guidance on a teacher's part, building confidence and a can-do attitude in a student, is what leads students to feel comfortable tackling more challenging academic, emotional, interpersonal, and physical challenges over the 11 years of this education.

Later in the day, I revel in hearing the proud words of the girls’ soccer coaches as they describe how player-elected captains Maggie, Maddy, and Evie have taken over Thursday practices, showing leadership by building the lesson plans, bringing the equipment out, and taking charge of the practices to optimize growth for their teammates.

None of this leadership happens by accident. It happens because our faculty has put together a thoughtful program of leadership that starts with three-year-olds and develops until students, by 8th Grade, can create haunted houses, lead teams, hear the quieter voices, protect the environment, embrace differences, and so much more.

When students learn leadership skills, they gain confidence in the classroom, on the athletic fields, and in the social arena. They move outside of their comfort zone because they have the confidence in themselves as leaders to do so. We provide our students with leadership  opportunities through our Elmore Leadership Program to stretch themselves and we revel in their success.

Our Elmore Leadership Program has become well known enough that schools now emulate it and, in fact, Mrs. Coyne was just invited to a school in the Midwest to spend two days conducting professional development for PreSchool, Lower School, and Middle School faculty and assisting their teachers in thinking about additional ways to develop leadership capacities in their students. (Read the article here.)

Hang around The Country School long enough and you will take pleasure in the intentional sequencing of growth, knowing that a three-year-old who can figure out how to fit an oversized stiff piece of paper in a small mailbox will someday know exactly what to do with body parts and a knife.

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341 Opening Hill Road, Madison, CT 06443
P. 203-421-3113  |  F. 203-421-4390  |  Health Office F. 860-469-2550
Founded in 1955, The Country School is a coeducational, independent school serving students in PreSchool-Grade 8. The Country School is committed to active, hands-on learning and a vigorous curriculum that engages the whole child.