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Friday, September 22, 2017

A high school student runs for and is elected to a position on student council, or applies for and is accepted to be a committee head; the moment of acceptance feels great, but eventually reality sets in and she is expected to take on a leadership role. How will she know what to do? How will she have the confidence to succeed?

For Ma’ayanot student leaders—those who have been elected to serve on G.O. (Ma’ayanot’s student government organization) or who have been appointed as a Head of one of Ma’ayanot’s numerous committees—the answer is Ma’ayanot’s Leadership Training Seminar, a half-day hands-on experiential workshop that took place on the Thursday before school started.

Conceived of and created by Ms. Sarah Gordon, Director of Student Activities, and Mrs. Dena Block, Director of Student Programming, this Leadership Training Seminar was designed with three goals in mind:

· teaching of concrete, step-by-step instructions for how to develop and run successful student programming

· development of a shared language for giving and receiving constructive feedback

· exploration of positive strategies for successful team building.

In addition to Ms. Gordon and Mrs. Block, the seminar was facilitated by Mr. Marc Fein, NCSY Director of Experiential Education and Regional Director of Upstate New York.

The day started with a nuts to bolts training session on how to plan and implement successful student programming, and this information was immediately put to use when students were instructed to break off and meet with their respective leadership groups to plan a first program for the year.

During the second phase of the program, each group presented its programming idea and plan for implementation to the full seminar for comment and review. However, before the presentations began, Mr. Fein provided linguistic training on how to offer constructive criticism that has the effect of moving program development forward rather than shutting down a less-than-perfect idea. Ms. Gordon was particularly pleased with this portion of the program: “The students found the feedback language awkward and uncomfortable at first, but they eventually came to see how effective it was in keeping feedback constructive and not negative.”

For the final portion of the program, which focused on strategies for successful team building and maximizing collaboration, Mr. Fein introduced two decision-making paradigms, The Consensus Model and The Hat Model, which, when implemented correctly, tend to generate widespread levels of team participation and agreement. Ms. Gordon reported that the students enjoyed learning about these methods of decision making because “they allowed the students to realize that consensus is possible and that they do not necessarily need to love every programming idea—that sometimes they just need to be able to support it.”

When asked if they feel ready to assume their roles as Co-Heads of TAP (Ma’ayanot’s Torah, Activities and Programming Committee), senior Tamar Schwartz commented that she is “happy to have gained tools that will help me make meetings flow better and be more productive,” and senior Nina Miller noted that she is now confident that she “knows how to build a program that will achieve all of its goals.” Ready indeed!