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Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 2– 2021-22
Student Leadership
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What I Learned at Camp!
Lessons and learnings from our students
James Layman
AWSL Director
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture
The Association of Washington Student Leaders is back in business!
After two challenging years of reimagining and postponing our programs, 2022 will forever mark the return of AWSL. Our summer programs brought back the energy, passion, and collaborative learning experiences we have missed. One of the most rewarding aspects of our programs being active once again is the opportunity to learn from our students. Our programs afford us a front-row seat to engage with and learn from students. This summer, our students gave us profound insight into where they are at and what they need from us as adults to support them in their journey as leaders in their schools, communities, and world. The soundtrack the students created for us this summer lays out an incredible blueprint for how we can meet them where they are and provide tools to support their growth. Connection. The older our students get, the less time we dedicate to supporting them in building relationships with one another. Over and over, students shared they didn’t realize how significant cultivating and developing relationships with others was. We must remember: our connections were interrupted like horrific WIFI in 2020. We will be exploring the profound impacts of this for years to come. Our students need connection. They need time, spaces, and places to share about themselves, learn from one another, share common experiences, laugh, and discover they are not alone in the world. Connection is a buzzword we often toss around, but it is the root of everything. To connect is to learn. To connect is to grow. To connect is to discover. To connect is to create.
After two challenging years of reimagining and postponing our programs, 2022 will forever mark the return of AWSL. Our summer programs brought back the energy, passion, and collaborative learning experiences we have missed.
Fear. This is more than an emotion and character in Pixar’s “Inside Out.” Fear is something many of our students are feeling at their core. There are varying levels of fear in our students from elementary on up. Understanding and recognizing these can help us empathize with our student’s needs.
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) - Often associated with being jealous that somebody got to do something that we didn’t, this concept has morphed within our current students. This has transformed into students believing they are missing out on a strength, personality trait, characteristic, or talent their peers have, making them feel “less than.” This comparative fear is running rampant with our students. This is our call to remind students of their gifts that make them uniquely them.
  • FOFB (Fear of Falling Behind) - Not being able to keep up with everything on their plates (academically, socially, culturally, and personally). Our students feel that they are on a treadmill that will not stop. When our students reach their limit, it causes them to shut down, recoil, and seek to find the energy to push forward. Our students feel overwhelmed with the increasing demands placed on them. We must help remind them to focus on what they can control. Take one thing at a time, and create skills for decompressing, taking a break, and how to re-engage.
  • FOMU (Fear of Messing Up) - The desire to chase a level of perfection that is not attainable also plagues our students. This desire and the fear of disappointing themselves, friends, families, educators, and future connections can make our students want to hide and not put themselves outside. The fear of judgment and disapproval weighs on our students like a ton of bricks. We must continue encouraging our students and allowing them to process their environments and situations.
  • FOWN (Fear of What’s Next) - The unknown. The future. Two scary concepts for our students. Imagining "what's next" can produce anxiety when our students fear that the rug can be pulled out from underneath them. The last few years have been so temperamental with expectations and what could happen that it can make it difficult for our students to begin to process the short-term and long-term future. We must practice patience as students regain their footing and begin to feel secure and stable with the world.
Joy. Our students need joy. They need to laugh. They need to remember that even during difficult times, there is still good in the world and good in others. Watching students create, laugh, and engage with one another this summer was incredible. You could feel an energy lift and boost with the sounds of students engaging with one another. Finding opportunities where our students celebrate the humanity of others with a light energy can be profound. The health benefits of smiling and laughing are well documented, but our students need to feel and experience joy and goodness. Us. And, finally, our students need us.
  • They need us to remind them of what they are capable of.
  • They need us to believe in them.
  • They need us to be patient with them.
  • They need us to provide spaces for them to learn and grow.
  • They need us to remember that their generation is under extraordinary stress.
  • They need us to lift them up when they fall.
  • They need us to remind them of what they have achieved.
  • They need us to laugh with them.
  • They need us to continue to hold them accountable while allowing them to try, fail, and try again.
  • They need... us.
This summer was profound for me. The greatest lessons and leadership development activities will not resonate as strongly if we forget these three building blocks. Our students continuously tell us what they need; it is up to us to listen. Let us take this next chapter of time and support them in building something extraordinary. Something extraordinary for them, our schools, and our world.