When I started this journey, I knew my goal was to develop leadership opportunities for all students. However, as I started examining this goal, it wasn’t just the skill development that was the only barrier in developing leadership skills in all students. We are definitely not giving all students the same opportunities to develop their leadership skills, but there are even more barriers, which I now see more clearly. My first goal is to make more of us aware of these barriers, so, like me, we can work to reduce them where we can. I will introduce the barriers to us in this post, and then the next five posts will focus on each individual barrier, and share observations on how we put those barriers in place for students, while also offering ideas and suggestions on how we can break them down for students.
Barrier 1 - “The System”
“The System,” is the one in which our students operate within, “The Educational System.” I will first focus on this barrier because I think it is the most common, and one that educators and my readers can work on easistly. I would also like to invite you to join me in my educator series (20 professional growth hours) where we explore some of these barriers together. Click here for more information.
Barrier 2 - Peers
We all pretend to be someone we are not in order to protect ourselves, especially in school. When students do this, it prevents them from feeling like they can be themselves, even if that means being a leader. If we can examine the roles that peers play in preventing this opportunity for themselves and each other, we can find more places for leadership to emerge.
Barrier 3 - Parents and Guardians
Who doesn’t want their children to be happy? Another thing that we, as parents, want for our children is their success, as defined by our standards. If they do not live up to the expectations we have for them, our children know. Maybe it’s not something directly said or done, but it’s there, and when that happens enough times, our children think that we don’t believe in them. It’s hard to think about it, but it’s true - and unless we acknowledge the impact that our reactions to their failures have on our children, we will continue to be disappointed, and they will never see their own potential.
Barrier 4 - Grandparents
Think of your parents and consider telling them something that might not jive with what they understand or know. Older generations carry judgements and prejudices, and it doesn’t just affect you, their child - it affects your children too. If they see grand mom or granddad react negatively to you sharing something that is not within that generations’ system of belief, will your child want to share their thoughts and feelings with their grandparents? Again, not something we want to think about, but we need to acknowledge the barriers our parents place on our children. Even the subtle messages stop our children from seeing themselves as leaders.
Barrier 5 - Law Enforcement
This cannot be ignored. I know that there is change happening, but it is not happening fast enough, and each generation of young black children who are told to be careful how they act around police officers does damage to their ability to see themselves as leaders. The court system also prevents our children of color from seeing their potential. How is that our job as educators? This is all of our responsibility - to raise every student up, and make sure they all see their potential.
Can I fix them all? Certainly not alone.
Can my blog offer ways we can fix the barriers? I hope - at least a little.
There are a lot, I agree, and some are really big barriers, but any opportunity to support more leaders is my ultimate goal. Stay tuned for some posts with ideas and solutions to these challenges our students face!