Class IV Lessons in Leadership

NOVEMBER 22, 2022

When the Class of 2031 reached Class IV this year, they were so excited to take up the mantle of leaders of the Lower School. But as the year got underway, Class IV Teacher Rebecca Oshins began to wonder—did they truly understand what being “Leaders of the Lower School” meant or did they just assume they were the leaders because they were the oldest? And thus, the Class IV Leadership Retreat was born. For one whole day in November, Class IV suspended their classes and dove into learning all about what it means to be a leader.

The morning began with Class VIII Co-Presidents Lily T. ’27 and Tyler M. ’27. They spoke to the students about what leadership looks like for them in the Middle School and led Class IV in an exercise around creating a class motto. In small groups, students came up with a variety of phrases that addressed the impact they wanted to have on the Lower School and how they wanted Class IV to feel. They are currently still voting on what the final motto will be, but strong contenders include: The only true failure is not trying; Even though we are small, we have big imaginations; and Greatness is at your fingertips. This exercise also had a deeper meaning for Lily and Tyler, who were in Class IV when the Class of 2031 was in Kindergarten—which gave them a chance to reconnect with their Kindergarten “siblings” four years later.

Next up was the Class IV neighborhood scavenger hunt. Utilizing their social studies work on geography and directions, small groups of students ventured out into the Nightingale neighborhood with a chaperone and hints to a specific location. They snapped a photo of their final destination and upon their return to Nightingale, the entire grade had to assemble 11 puzzles in complete silence—a true challenge that they mastered beautifully! Once complete, the puzzles revealed the names of the Class IV and Kindergarten sibling pairings for this year.

PE teachers Ms. Cocchiaro and Mr. Piper also joined in on the fun with Class IV as they took them through team building and communications games in the gym. A pizza lunch followed, which included brainstorming moments of leadership that could exist within the school day, such as helping to shelve books in the library, guiding the Kindergarten students to their classrooms, and speaking at assemblies.

The afternoon included special leadership guests from the senior class, Nisa W. ’23, Tori B. ’23, Annique B-A. ’23, and Aashtha A. ’23, who spoke with Class IV about their experience of leadership in the Upper School. They then took them through a version of the activity they completed on their Class XII retreat: small groups came up with their own definition of leadership, eventually combining into larger and larger groups to come up with a final definition—which is still in progress.

For Freya F. ’31, this was her favorite part of the day. She said, “I really liked how it was teaching us how we could help each other and be part of a community in a way I never thought we could be. It’s just exciting to think about how many ways we could be and I loved how we did it because it was just amazing when a lot of people combined their ideas to make one and a lot of people thought this wasn’t going to work and they’d have to come up with a new idea. I loved how everyone was just combining their ideas and making something even more spectacular.”

Finally, the moment that Class IV had been waiting for all day had arrived: meeting their Kindergarten sibling for storytime and get-to-know-you activities. Class IV students had pre-selected their books and once they were introduced to their new Kindergarten friend, they all settled into a cozy spot in the classroom to read.

Head of School Paul A. Burke rounded out the day with his visit to Class IV speaking to his experiences of leadership as the head of school.

Reflecting on the day, Ms. Oshins shared, “I believe deeply in student voice, so when the 4th graders spoke so frequently and passionately about being 'Leaders of the Lower School' my mind started spinning with ideas to make sure they felt heard. I was excited to plan a day that could connect them to other student leaders from across the school, but also give them an opportunity to brainstorm tangible and concrete moments of leadership. And, eat pizza.”

When asked what leadership means to her, Avä M. ’31 declared that, “Leadership means to me that you’re there for each other no matter what. You can count on each other, your friends are there, and it doesn’t always mean that you’re the fastest, the smartest, or being the best at anything. It’s not anything that’s your outside trait, it’s all about what’s on the inside. It’s about who you are and what you want for your community, what you want for your friends and your teammates.”

We can’t wait to see where Class IV goes from here on their leadership journey!