A Skill-Based Community Service Leadership Training Session for HKIS Student Leaders

Jade and Jackie get to work reflecting on their leadership of the Hang Fa Chuen Lutheran Nursery English teaching program.  One of the key ways we hope to improve the quality of our Service on Saturday community service programs at HKIS is through leadership training sessions such as this one.  This entry shares the rubric we used to help students to reflect on the quality of their leadership of these programs.

Introduction

How should educators teach the skills of being a student leader of a community service activity? In the past we didn’t have a tool or rubric.  We just tried to encourage those leaders who were already doing the right things, and made suggestions to those that were struggling.  This year my colleagues Mike Kersten and Pion Ng, and myself, who facilitate the HKIS Service on Saturday (SOS) program, decided to take the four most essential skills of leading a long-term service program and break these down into their most basic components.

We gathered 28 leaders of our 14 service programs for a 40-minute session .  We began the meeting by reminding them of our two themes of the year – “serving well” and “serving together” – and we explained that the following skills will help them accomplish these goals.  Then, using the worksheet below, we asked paired leaders of each program to evaluate themselves, and then consider ways to improve in the future.

LEADERSHIP CHECKLIST FOR S.O.S. LEADERS

Hong Kong International School                                SOS Leaders Workshop – Oct. 8

YOUR TASK:  Self critique your SOS leadership so far this year in four areas using the checklist below.  You may write a ✓,✓+, and ✓- in the ☐ as you discuss how well you’ve led your group with respect to each item.

When you finish, choose the area where you see the most room for growth and use the checklist to guide you in practically preparing for your next session, meeting or debrief.

1.  Organizing an Activity Plan (planning before session)

☐ Complete on time (Sunday before session to advisor, Wednesday to agency)
☐ Include time expectation for each activity (e.g. 10:00-10:15 Name Game)
☐ Delegate student leaders for each activity
☐ Include materials list with amounts and students responsible
☐ Include a backup plan and/or extra activities in case some activities flop or finish early
☐ Choose age appropriate activities (not too challenging or too easy)
☐ Choose interesting and engaging activities (not using the same simple activities repeatedly)
☐ Utilize online resources to brainstorm new activity ideas

NOTE: Ms. Ng has prepared an outstanding activity plan template on GoogleDocs that is highly recommended as a method for preparing and submitting activity plans.  Let us know if you’d like to take a look!

2.  Leading Activities with Children (running the session)

☐ Have lessons plans in the hands of all teachers/leaders
☐ Arrange room to fit lesson plan before beginning
☐ Group students in such a way as to maximize success of lesson
☐ Be sure that children are quiet and attentive before speaking (teach/use a quiet signal)
☐ Start enthusiastically with an explanation of the session’s goal
☐ Model the activity with your SOS team so children can see and hear the desired outcome (do a demo round of a games, so completed craft examples, etc.)
☐ Move on the next activity at the moment of peak excitement rather than letting an activity’s energy play out; it leaves children wanting more
☐ Monitor the group activity and adjust time and activity accordingly
☐ If a group or student does well, pause to display these exemplars for others to model
☐ Reward those that do quality work (verbally, stickers, etc.)
☐ Transition efficiently to new activity (teach/use a quiet signal)

3.  Facilitating a Meeting with SOS Group (at school)

☐ Announce meetings consistently (Gmail, Google Calendar invite, Facebook, MyDNet, etc.)
☐ Include all information about meetings in one announcement (time, location, agenda, etc.)
☐ Arrange the room so that students can sit close to one another in a circle
☐ Agree on meeting norms (timely arrival, closed computers, no side conversations, etc.)
☐ Project your agenda and meeting expectations on the screen to before you begin
☐ Appoint a secretary to take meeting minutes and keep these archived for absent members or for remembering past discussions (GoogleDoc)
☐ Be clear about what members are expected to do regarding each agenda item (e.g. receive information, brainstorm ideas, complete an activity plan, make a decision as a group)
☐ Have a method for recognizing consensus on decisions (voting, nodding, “speak now or hold your peace”) and make sure everyone knows when decisions have been made.

4.  Facilitating Debrief/Reflection with SOS Group (likely at session site)

We would like to distinguish between a debrief  and a reflection.  A debrief is a fairly quick discussion after a session to learn what went well and how to improve next time.  A debrief helps with our first goal of “SERVING WELL.”  On the other hand, a reflection takes the group to a deeper consideration of  what they are giving and receiving through their service outings.  This kind of reflection helps us achieve our second goal of “SERVING TOGETHER.”  Ideally, your SOS group should have frequent debriefs (every time?) and several reflections throughout the course of the year.

To facilitate a debrief:
☐ Arrange space to facilitate discussion
☐ Ask students what went well
☐ Encourage students to share memorable stories or notable progress
☐ Ask students what didn’t go so well or what challenges they faced
☐ Ask what can be improved for next time
☐ Ask for volunteers to make these improvements and note those for next time
☐ End with an encouraging word that shows you care about the quality of our service

To facilitate a reflection:
☐ Notify students ahead of time that there will be a time for reflection
☐ Arrange space to facilitate discussion (e.g., cozy circles) and consider providing drinks for students.
☐ Consider how much time can be set aside for the reflection
☐ Have a list of prepared questions on hand with a range of levels
☐ Have one or two  “icebreaker” questions
☐ Have someone in mind (e.g., a fellow leader, a particular student) who can be called upon to model the kind of responses you would like to see.
☐ Ask students to comment on issues related to Hong Kong society
☐ Ask questions that require deeper levels of thought, especially ones that focus on the meaning of the experience and the motivations of those serving.
☐ Ask questions that allow students to express  the feelings of service, both positive (joy, connection, hope, compassion) and negative (frustration, fear, guilt, helplessness)

Conclusion

We were quite pleased with this session in that students considered their strengths and weaknesses as leaders in a quick practical meeting.  In fact, we had about 10 minutes left for some sharing of how they are doing with their leadership of their programs.  This was an effective leadership training session that we expect will bear fruit in our service activities in the Hong Kong community.

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About martinschmidtinasia

I have served as a humanities teacher at Hong Kong International School since 1990, teaching history, English, and religion courses. Since the mid-1990's I have also come to assume responsibility for many of the school's service learning initiatives. My position also included human care ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Hong Kong, southern China, and others parts of Asia from 1999-2014. Bringing my affluent students into contact with people served by the LCMS in Asia has proved to be beneficial to students and our community partners alike. Through these experience I have become committed to social conscience education, which gives students the opportunity to find their place in society in the context of challenging global realities.
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