Enthusiasm ignites middle school leaders

 By Miranda Holloway

Executive Online Editor

Yells filled air of the Carpentersville Middle School gym on Dec. 1 as two groups of seventh and eighth graders stood in circles, holding hands and cheering.
Their goal was simple: pass two hula-  hoops around the circle, keeping their hands connected, using only their bodies to wiggle through the hoops. That’s easier said, or read, than done.
 
  
 But their voices were not alone in the cheering. Each team had four Prospect J. Kyle Braid (JKB) leaders screaming words of encouragement from the center of the circles.One such leader was junior Zach Tuczak.
 
“They were just jumping off the walls… it was fun,”Tuczak said.

JKB made it’s eighth annual trip to Carpentersville Il., about a half hour west of Mt. Prospect, to teach seventh and eighth grade students about leadership and teamwork.
This year’s leaders, seniors Mike Latulip, Brad Reibel, Maura Benson and Allison Walsh and juniors Tuczak, Kennedy McNamara, Michelle Molini and Maggie Devereux, brought a level of excitement and enthusiasm that helped bring the students together.
The group went to CMS to show kids how to solve problems in their daily live, work well in groups and how to accept others for who they are. Before they could learn how to accept others, they needed to accept their leaders and themselves.
“The [leaders] demonstrated that they are awkward and uncomfortable and [can] just be goofy. That makes it easier for the kids to be goofy,” social studies teacher Jay Heilman and JKB sponsor said. “I think they were modeling what we wanted them to do.”
What they wanted was for the middle school students to learn about team building and leadership, but when the day started out many of the students were shy or uncomfortable with their leaders.
“If we didn’t start with those enthusiastic, spirited [games] they wouldn’t have had that open attitude towards everyone,” Benson said. “They would not have shown the leadership potential they had with them.”
The kids broke up into small groups, each lead by one of the JKB leaders. The leaders lead them in “icebreakers,” a way to get to know one another and make the kids more comfortable with each other and their leader.
“After we did the name game and doing all the other activities,  people started to work together as a group and come together,” Angie T., a CMS eighth grader, said.
 These activities also helped the leaders to get to know the personalities of all of the different students in their group better (see It’s in the cards).

“[The leaders] were very in tune with a student that wasn’t interacting or wasn’t involved and they would use their skills in order to bring that student into the mix,” seventh grade counselor Lindsay Wagner said.

After the bond within the groups was built, the leaders directed the kids in their group through games that required them to work together to solve their problems (see Fun and games).    While they never directly helped the kids, the leaders encouraged them and made suggestions.
“They helped by saying ‘keep going.’ They motivated the other people too by telling them to do things a certain way and [to] not just stand there,” Angie said.
 The leaders knew while planning the trip that they would have to make sure that they were getting through to the students and that they would take away leadership skills that they could use in their everyday life.
 “We knew that we needed to get everyone excited and we needed to get some energy going,” Tuczak said. “After a while it just came naturally because everyone was having so much fun.”
 The excitement they created was not only for fun. It also helped them find a way to teach the kids about leadership and their roles as leaders and connect with them.
 “The fact that we made it fun for them to understand it helped them remember, too. The learning that they did was fun so it was easy for them to remember,” Tuczak said.

 By showing this more positive attitude, the middle school students were more attentive and ready to hear what they had to say.
  
“They talked a lot and I actually listened,” Alice E., CMS eighth grader, said.
  
While the leaders and administrators wanted the kids to come away with the skills to be leaders in their school, they also hoped the kids noticed the enthusiastic attitude that the leaders showed during the day.
“Having our leaders show excitement, having it be OK, [let’s the students know that they] can show excitement and know that it’s OK,” Heilman said. “It’s OK to be this way, it’s not dorky, it’s not being a teachers pet, it’s having fun and everyone likes having fun.”
 
 And while all of the skills and attitudes the kids learned about were important, Tuczak hopes that they understand what they can do as a leader in their school.
 
“I hope [what] they took away from it is to not let anyone else tell you differently and that they were all chosen as leaders and to all learn from each other,” Tuzcak said. “Even the smallest thing they could learn from  the day [we visited] would make the world different.”

 It’s in the cards

As a way to encourage team roles in all of students adults, such as J. Kyle Braid (JKB) sponsors Jay Heilman and Frank Mirandola, walk around the Carpentersville Middle School gym during team building activities handing out cards. On these cards the adults would write titles like “ideas person” or “encouager”  and hand them to students who were showing these qualities. Not only did this help them show the students what all of the titles looked like in real life situations but they also helped recognize shyer students, according to senior JKB leader Maura Benson.
“They might not want to be called out like ‘this kid’s amazing’ but when you give it to them on a card they might think to themselves, ‘wow I am a leader’ and they might come out of their shell more,” Benson said.
Fun and games 
Name Game- in small groups students went around in a circle saying their name and an adjective that started with the first letter of their name and did a motion that related to their adjective. As they progressed in the circle they needed to remeber everyone’s name, adjective and motion. For example, when the circle was on  “Dancing” Donte they danced.
Rapid Fire questions- in the same small groups one student stood in the middle of the circle and the rest of group asked them questions about their likes and dislikes.
Rock- paper- siccors– the smaller groups had a rock paper siccors competition and played the other groups until they had a final two people from different sides of the gym.
Fold the tarp– each group stood on a tarp. They had to fold the tarp under them without having anyone in the step off onto the gym floor.
Ball game– each group needed to find a way to have every group member touch a ball as fast as they could.
Human knot- Students hold hands across a circle and then try to untie themselves.  
Hula- Hoop race-  the groups have to pass two hula hoops around the group of students who are holding hands. The can not let go of each others’ hands and can only wiggle their bodies through the hoop.
Role playing- select students sat at the front of the gym with cards on their forehead reading things like “bully” “jock” or “class clown” ,. The leaders asked them generic questions about school and the audience responded as they would to the sterotype’s forehead.