Where ‘little l’ leadership begins

As a School, we have the opportunity to guide the way students think and learn. At the same time, we can also offer opportunities for students to take the initiative, find their own strengths, and discover how they can use these strengths to lead others.

At Grimwade House, students and teachers work together to explore different models and forms of leadership, with service to others always top-of-mind. As Grimwade’s Leadership Coordinator Cristina Campagna explains, these models can include everything from formal leadership roles like Class or House Captain, through to informal moments of leadership in the classroom.

“We want students to see the scope of leadership and to understand that it can happen everywhere,” she says. “It starts with reflecting on ourselves as leaders and understanding how we work best with others, then thinking about how we can lead by serving our community.”

Preparing to take the next step

By the time Grimwade students reach Year 5, they have already encountered leadership through opportunities to serve such as a Class Captain, on the Student Representative Council (SRC) and in leadership roles on the sporting field, through outdoor education, and in everyday classroom interactions.

As they begin to consider the formal leadership role they would like to take on in Year 6, it is time for them to learn more about teamwork and leadership through a series of workshops. The Year 5 students hear from a diverse representation of students and staff leaders through our annual Year 5 Q and A seminar to gain a greater depth of understanding of what being a leader actually means.

Speaking at this year’s webinar, 2021 Year 6 Class Captain Arabella Lumicisi shared her thoughts on the importance of student leaders. “Year 6s get to be role models for the rest of the School, and to prepare for future leadership roles themselves,” Arabella said. “I’ve learned that it’s not really about being the only person who can lead your class. It’s about sharing ideas and learning from others.”

Former Grimwade House Captain and 2021 Wadhurst Vice-Captain Henry Flintoft also spoke to the Year 5s about his leadership experiences. “The School gives us opportunities to grow as leaders,” he said. “I loved collaborating with people who had shared interests with the goal of helping their peers and the School. Leadership is about helping others to realise their potential.”

While School leadership roles encourage independence, hard work and commitment, students also know their teachers are there to support their work. The structure of student leadership at Grimwade House is facilitated by Teacher Mentors at every level including the SRC, Service Teams, House Captains and School Captains. One theme echoed by many students was the importance of being open and honest with teachers when they faced challenges juggling school and leadership responsibilities.

“You have so many teachers supporting everything you do,” said 2021 School Captain Kelly Liu. “If you ever feel nervous or have questions about your role, you can always get support, and if you feel stressed out or need more time to do things like writing reports or speeches, you can always ask.”

Focusing on service in Year 6

All Year 6 students take on a leadership role through the Service Teams program which has an action-based, student-led approach. And, as the name suggests, the emphasis is very much on service to others.

This program is embedded into the Year 6 CARE (Community, Action, Relationships and Emotional Intelligence) program and curriculum. Teams include Digitech, Environment, Library, Performing Arts and Music, RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan), Science, Snowsports and Visual Art.

Each Service Team has at least one Teacher Mentor who encourages the students to consider what they can do as a group to serve their various communities, including how they can identify problems and collectively consider possible solutions. For example, the Library Service team could come up with ideas about what they could do during Book Week in support of their fellow students.

Apart from personal development in communication and time management, students often gain deeper attributes through the program. “We regularly see an increased level of understanding of the importance of diversity and the value of collaboration through the Service Teams model,” explains Cristina. “Many students also gain greater self‑awareness.”

“Together with the Teacher Mentors, my role is to provide opportunities for each team member to develop their own sense of leadership,” she says. “We are hoping to prepare students for future life experiences like public speaking, making connections, engaging with their community, providing service to others and representing Melbourne Grammar School.”

Old Melburnians lead the way

The capacity for Year 6 Service Teams to connect with and provide service to their communities has been limited by lockdowns this year. However, a new speaker series was initiated in Term 4 to overcome that hurdle, while also creating opportunity for our students to lead.

Old Melburnians conversed with Year 6 students through themed Q and A sessions, inspiring the students by highlighting their own life journeys and philosophies. The sessions included Old Melburnians with sport, visual and performing arts backgrounds, as well as those working with Indigenous communities.

Apart from the benefit of building empathy and understanding, students were coached in the practical skills associated with hosting a session of this type and writing questions. For example, when the group heard from Paralympian skier, James Millar (OM 2003), the Snowsports Service Team led the discussion.

Other speakers have included AFLW player, Bonnie Toogood (OM 2015) and sculptor, Anna Lane (OM 2014), as well as Liv Vizard (OM 2015) and Charles Wylie (OM 2015) who both teach at Tennant Creek High School.

The Grimwade House leadership map: Opportunities across every year level

  • School Captains: Two per semester (4 total), Year 6
  • House Captains: Two per semester per House (16 total), Year 6
  • Student Representative Council (SRC): 40 Class Captains per semester, Years 2 – 6
  • Year 6 Service Teams: One role for every student per year
  • Learning engagements: Incidental & explicit opportunities, Prep-Year 6
  • Extra-curricular groups & sporting teams: Flexible roles & responsibilities for all participants including Team Captains, Prep-Year 6

The SRC in action

This year, Grimwade’s SRC sought to address the need for a rashie vest to complement the existing swim uniform. The idea was first initiated by Year 6 student, Andie Sherren, who thought it would be a useful garment to wear when engaging in activities like surfing on School camps.

A School-wide competition was initiated to find the right design, and the vest is now in production.

“Leadership at Grimwade is student-led,” says Leadership Coordinator Cristina Campagna. “We want to encourage that—to create a platform where students can bring up issues, create ideas, and navigate towards solutions together.”