Fessenden’s Head of School on Leadership

Steve Armstrong, Fessenden’s Head of School

The act of teaching is all about leadership. That is what educators do each and every day. Be it in the classroom, on the field, or in the studio, our faculty and staff are always leading our boys. Our messages are conveyed verbally, by example, through practices or rehearsals, and by listening. While our leadership styles vary, we are always guiding our students.

At the core of our collective leadership efforts is the focus of caring for our students. Be they our Pre-Kindergartners or our ninth graders, these boys are somewhere on the path to adulthood, and our jobs are to help them develop into their best selves as they progress on their respective journeys. The ultimate goal for each of us is to play an active role in helping them become good young men. That is what faculty leadership at Fessenden is all about—helping to ensure that our boys become the best people they can be.

As part of guiding students to develop their character, we are also committed to helping them develop as leaders. With this work occurring in every grade throughout the School, Fessenden believes that all of our boys are leaders. Yes, their individual styles will prove unique. Some will lead through example, some through spoken or written words, some in “official” leadership roles, and some collaboratively. Regardless of style or approach, each boy has leadership ability, and he needs to recognize this in himself and continue to develop with each subsequent year.

Fessenden Upper School Student MeditationTeaching leadership at Fessenden assumes many forms. For example, each ninth grade boy is required to share a “meditation”—a personal story or meaningful message—with the full Upper School community during Morning Meeting. Boys work hard to write their meditations, practice them vigilantly, and, of course, deliver them with success. These are risky, challenging moments for our boys. For many, public speaking is a nerve-wracking endeavor. Yet, after each boy shares his meditation, he has gained confidence in himself as a public speaker and has developed his own leadership repertoire.

Commendations during Lower School Morning Meetings are meaningful opportunities for boys in this division to learn about leadership. When a commendation is offered, the boy is asked to stand amongst his Lower School peers to hear a tribute about him from a Fessy adult. These commendations articulate a special act of kindness, extra effort, or act of selflessness by the recipient, and they indicate how this boy has provided leadership for his peers through his actions. Good deeds are recognized, and in doing so, an example is heralded for all the boys in the division.

The Middle Makers class for Middle School boys provides an opportunity to impart academic lessons of leadership. All boys in this division partake in this class and, in doing so, are asked to engage in designing innovative academic projects. In a world prizing creative leadership, our boys get to practice this skill as part of their school lives. We believe an innovative approach to learning is a fundamental tool for every Fessenden boy, and so we help them become leaders in this area at a young age.

Building leadership in our students is a fundamental aspect of our mission to develop character, and we are excited about this work we do with our students. Our efforts begin with a dedicated, caring faculty who convene around the common value of growing boys into good young men, and it is born out in our daily efforts and through our various programs. As faculty and staff, we are fortunate to share this commitment and to impact positively the leadership skills and character development of our students. As an educator, this is incredibly rewarding work, and we see each and every day how our students benefit.


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