Interschool Student Team Leadership in Hebrew
Pirkei Avot offers a valuable lesson in leadership: “Who is wise? One who learns from every person.” Teams in which all members learn from one another cultivate and strengthen leadership qualities for everyone. Team leaders are able combine the strengths of each team member in order to achieve common goals.
Our school’s mission is to inspire each and every child to improve the world. We believe that in order to be a leader, one needs to recognize his or her existing strengths while at the same time fostering new skills and attitudes. While some students are accepted and recognized as leaders in the school, community or home, others have not yet been recognized and therefore have not had the chance to demonstrate their leadership skills. We want to encourage young adults to seek within themselves the potential of their own leadership, and we do our best to create an environment within the school that fosters team leadership, enabling young people to realize their leadership skills and to practice them in a safe and secure environment.
In my role as Hebrew language coordinator, I have created and spearheaded programs aimed at giving students the opportunity to build and practice their team leadership skills while simultaneously using Hebrew as a tool to communicate ideas in a meaningful way. One such program is Young Ambassadors of the Hebrew Language (השגרירים הצעירים של השפה העברית). This program engages 18 students in grades 6 to 8, from three schools in the Miami area, in order to encourage interschool collaboration and strengthen student leadership through the schools’ academic and Jewish priorities. The program has been running for three years with much success, and is open to interested students who have distinguished themselves with high achievement in Hebrew.
To help them recognize and acknowledge their strengths, the students are required to write a paragraph in Hebrew explaining why they think they should be picked as one of the ambassadors of their school. Selection is based upon Hebrew fluency, initiative, effort, ability to work in a team, and evidence of strong focus. Students selected are invited to a daylong retreat, which takes place once a year at the campus of a participating school.
The retreat day is conducted in Hebrew and includes activities, discussions and debates facilitated by Morim Shlichim (emissary teachers from Israel), Bnot Sherut (Israeli women doing their post high school social service) and Ivrit teachers from the participating schools. After a short icebreaker and tour of the school led in Hebrew by the hosting students, students participate in different activities, allowing them to get to know each other better and communicate with each other in Hebrew.
Some activities are created by the students themselves. They work with their peers from other schools, combining one student’s Hebrew fluency with another’s fun ideas to create games and discussions. All activities incorporate information related to Israel. Fun facts about specific cities and regions, questions about Israeli historical figures, scientific innovations, Israeli music and food are included throughout the day. In addition, the ambassadors learn about current events and debate subjects related to Israel.
During the weeks following the retreat, the ambassadors lead similar activities with students in their own school. These students who have a positive connection with peers using Hebrew also take leadership positions in advocating for a stronger connection with Israel and its language. I have noticed that our school’s participating students have been able to communicate in Hebrew their activities as ambassadors and have gained more respect among their peers. In the past three years, the program has gained popularity, and students are asking to have it in the high school level, too. Other schools have shown interest in joining.
The main goal of the retreat is to create leadership opportunities for young adults while increasing the use of Hebrew language as a tool of communication among teenagers from different schools and backgrounds. Another objective is to form a group of young people who support Israel, know the facts about current issues, and are able to lead others in the same direction. Team leadership is a model that promotes growth. The Young Ambassadors program takes 18 students and empowers them to go back to their school and strengthen the other students’ knowledge and connection with Israel while encouraging them to improve their Hebrew skills.