Elections, Pictionary, and Adolf Hitler

Greetings from Washington, DC!

So what do elections, Pictionary, and Adolf Hitler have in common? They were all part of The Ota Initiative’s leadership curriculum this past program!  In the last blog I wrote about a few of the arts and science activities our students enjoyed during the program, so this time around I want to write you all about some of the leadership development activities our students engaged in.

A staple part of our leadership curriculum is having our students elect a class leadership team comprised of a president, vice president, and secretary. In our first two programs, these class leaders only had special duties to perform during our closing party. This time around, however, we assigned the class leaders daily duties such as handing out and collecting student notebooks, helping to serve the breakfast porridge, and helping to take attendance. Our head teacher, Pontian, reported that the leaders performed their duties well, so we hope that these new responsibilities will help reinforce the fact that being a leader is not just about being a powerful person; it is about helping other and being a good example for your peers.

While the election is the capstone of our leadership curriculum, Pontian reported that the students’ favorite leadership lesson this program was the one on teamwork. After briefly discussing the importance of encouraging others and working together, the students split into their groups and competed in a game of Pictionary. As could be predicted, several teams communicated positively and did quite well in the game while other teams became frustrated with each other and performed poorly. After the game ended, Pontian reviewed the teamwork lesson in the context of the game and talked with students about how they felt when their teammates supported them versus when they did not. When students played the game again, they worked together much more effectively, and Pontian said the students now love Pictionary and asked to play it again.

Another key part of our leadership curriculum is the stories we read students about world leaders. In past programs we have read stories about good leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, but this time around we read students a story about Adolf Hitler. Our teachers then talked with students about why Hitler was a bad leader and how his actions differed from those of Mandela. By comparing and contrasting two vastly different leaders, we hope to better instill an idea of good leadership qualities versus bad leadership qualities within our students.

While Pontian and Amizade’s site director, Sam, both reported continued interest in leadership activities and increasing self-confidence among our students, Sam also wrote in his program review that several female students are still notably less confident than their male counterparts. While we have built a comfortable space for our students within the classroom, they do not always carry that confidence with them when they cross the threshold back out into their normal lives. We want all of Ota’s students to feel they can voice their opinions and participate in public spaces, so as we plan our next program we are going to brainstorm ways to more effectively encourage our female students to be confident at all times, no matter where they are.

While there are other exciting leadership activities to report on, I think I will end this update here. We are about to begin planning for Ota’s FOURTH program this upcoming summer, so I will be sure to write you all in the future with any exciting updates. For now, thank you for reading, and enjoy your Monday!

Best Regards,
Rebecca Gailey
The Ota Initiative

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