February certainly crept up on me. Once again, the school year is speeding by. I love the pace and the excitement, save for the realization that our seniors are winding up their time with us. Last week they had the opportunity to showcase their many talents during one of my favorite traditions at St. Martin's, our annual Senior Leadership Day. Each year the seniors select a member of the faculty, staff, or administration to represent for the day. On that day they dress as professionals and carry out the duties of the person they are representing. In essence, they run the school for a day.
It is not a tradition I had heard of before coming to St. Martin's, and I found myself surprised the first time I experienced it. On this day the students actually do the work of the people they are representing. The seniors teach classes, run meetings, conduct chapels, counsel, care for younger students, and address issues which arise in the daily running of the school. In fact, those seniors representing administrators are given the opportunity on Senior Leadership Day to choose and champion issues within the school which they wish to address.
A lot of work on the part of individual faculty members goes into arranging and constructing the day and into pairing the students with the people they will shadow. Several meetings take place in advance between students and the people they will represent, to help to prepare for the day. This year, I found Senior Leadership Day to be exceptional. The students arrived at school early, in their business suits and dresses, for a general meeting in which they were reminded of the decorum required of them.
In the Head of School's office, my senior and I prepared agendas in advance of meetings and talked about the objectives of each item to be discussed. This senior class impressed us with the poise they exhibited. During the Leadership Team meeting (a potentially intimidating meeting in a room full of administrators and their senior representatives) I was asked to step away for a conference call. My senior not only carried on with the meeting on her own, but managed to adeptly complete the agenda in my absence. The students all shared and contributed to the boardroom-type meeting, ably representing the offices they mirrored. Many of them ended the day in an open forum discussion surrounding a proposed change in the bell schedule for next year. Their contributions were bold, insightful, and valuable.
This level of student leadership was exhibited throughout the school, all the day long. Our seniors developed lesson plans, taught classes, delivered sermons, prepared agendas, ran meetings, and directed programs. Through this annual process, not only do the students experience the rigor of the work world, but they gain empathy for those who devote their lives to educating them. The day also lays the groundwork for a more intense experience later in the year when the seniors join the workforce through our Senior Internship program.
A large part of what makes these experiences so successful is the culture of student leadership fostered in our Upper School. Under the direction of our Upper School Head, Michelle Scandurro, Assistant Head, Mary Bond, and a highly talented faculty, the Upper School Division is a training ground for life's challenges and experiences. Mrs. Scandurro and Ms. Bond have been invited to present this student-led philosophy to national audiences. The model they have developed is that of fostering real and meaningful relationships between students and adults. This is accomplished through respect, a healthy level of student autonomy, and shared governance. Through this leadership paradigm, our students learn to monitor themselves, to think rationally and critically, to weigh and measure their responses to day-to-day challenges, and to express themselves articulately and confidently. They gain a keen insight into adulthood and learn to lead with poise and grace.
I am so grateful to be a part of this wonderful model for educating children, and even more grateful that my grandchildren are growing up in a school community in which they can become amazing young leaders, such as our seniors. Senior Leadership Day is an event that I have come to look forward to, and I gain each year from the experience.