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Growing Leaders at The Gooden School

April 21, 2022
By John Williamson and Middle School Students

Working at The Gooden School for the past twelve years has been an incredible experience. My primary source of joy is working with our students and encouraging them to grow and become leaders. This month, I discussed leadership with the seventh-grade class, and encouraged them to reflect on what they have learned about leadership during their time at The Gooden School. Students wrote about their transformative experiences as admissions ambassadors, student council, chapel, and their involvement in group projects, debates, sports, and drama. Some students feel like leaders, and others feel like they are learning about leadership from the leaders around them.

One student wrote very personally about leadership, including these specifics about The Gooden School experience, “My kindergarten teachers taught me to express my thoughts and be bolder. My first-grade teacher helped me be more creative and less shy. My second-grade teacher taught me a lot about helping others. My third-grade teacher taught me to be more social with others. My fourth-grade teacher taught me to be proud of my education. I am no longer scared to raise my hand in class, and I don’t hold back in writing assignments. My fifth-grade teacher taught me how to be a leader. We worked on group projects often and I used a lot of the skills I learned before and put them together. I became less bossy and a better leader. When the pandemic came, and we were learning remotely, my newfound leadership skills faded to the back of my mind. When in-person learning began again, I remembered to be bossy but nothing else. I liked taking charge and organizing things, but I realized that I didn’t like when others bossed me around—especially without asking for my thoughts or opinions. I thought about how I would overpower others’ opinions and felt bad. Growing up in an environment like that of The Gooden School taught me many things, but it also taught me to be myself. I learned that my personality is bossy and always will be, but I also managed to tone down that bossiness and become a leader.”

Another student wrote, “An understanding, caring leader is one who is interested in and respectful of the lives of the group members. Being a leader is not just about being in charge; it's about making others feel happy.” This student understands the mindset of a leader and how leadership is connected to respect for others.

This student reflected on how courage and wisdom are part of the leadership process, “The school teaches students not just to get the right answer, but to understand and really know the concept. This ties into leadership, since being a leader requires knowledge and the bravery to answer and lead.”

One student reflected on how a leader must also be humble, “A leader who directs a team must be prepared to take the blame for any mistakes.” Another student noticed how leaders must “take responsibility, speak their thoughts clearly and give instructions and feedback in a way that is understandable and constructive.” “Being a leader isn’t just giving orders, it is making others feel motivated.”

 Students also recognize the importance of being organized. These skills can help leaders achieve their goals. “I have learned to manage assignments and to get them done. I have learned to communicate, use my resources, seek out help when needed, and ask if someone needs help.”

 Teachers at The Gooden School give our students many opportunities to mature as leaders through their years with us. We also know that students have many other opportunities to see leadership models in their families and the world around them.  Our task is to be positive and humble as we seek to lead by example and encourage them to see positive examples of leadership all around them.  

John Williamson joined The Gooden School in 2010. Born on Wright Patterson Air Force base in Fairborn, Ohio, Mr. Williamson grew up as the son of a journalist-turned Episcopal priest and a schoolteacher-turned homemaker-turned schoolteacher. He attended Azusa Pacific University, where he earned both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. He has also taught in Shandong, People’s Republic of China.  When he isn’t teaching, he enjoys writing, playing family games with his wife and two children, hiking, cooking, reading books and student-written work, and recording original songs.

Mr. Williamson believes that reading and ruminating over literature is how we understand what it means to be human. He approaches every English class with rich anticipation, knowing that his students are all in the process of growth and discovery.