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Be a Leader
Do you participate in class, work well in groups, and stay positive when challenged? Then you, too, can be a good leader. Several teachers talked with Scholastic News Online to help put together this guide on being a leader.
By Ezra Billinkoff

A lab team works together on a class project.
A lab team works together on a class project. Teamwork is an essential part of leadership. If you can communicate well with a group of classmates, you can probably accomplish any goals your teachers set for you.
(Photo: Comstock Images/agefotock )
Scholastic News Online spoke to several teachers about ways students can become leaders right in their classrooms. Want to be a leader? Ask yourself the following questions:

In the Classroom

Do you work well in groups? Teamwork is an essential part of leadership. If you can communicate well with a group of classmates, you can probably accomplish any goals your teachers set for you.

Do you participate in class discussions? It is important to show your teachers and your classmates that you understand the material you are discussing. It is always OK to be wrong about a topic. Just make sure you learn from your mistakes.

Do you help other classmates? If you know how to do something others don't (such as work on a computer), helping others learn is a good sign of leadership. If you offer to help your teachers as they help other students, you may be helping yourself to build leadership skills.

Are you patient? In classrooms with many students, challenges occur. You cannot always get what you want exactly when you need it. If you are patient and understanding with other students and teachers, you may be showing them how good a leader you can be.

Do you stay positive despite challenges? It is very easy to get frustrated when something does not go your way or when things are harder than you would like them to be. Good leaders keep their cool and work around the challenges they face.

Outside of School

Do you volunteer to help others? Students can learn important skills by volunteering at organizations that help people in need. Find a volunteer program near you and then get other students involved.

Are you on an athletic team? Playing team sports can be a great way to learn to be a leader. Teamwork is an important part of leadership in the classroom and on the court or field. To be a great leader, you must first know how to work with others to accomplish a goal—or shoot a goal!

Do you learn about other leaders? History has seen some remarkable leaders. There is a lot to learn from Presidents, business leaders, military leaders, civil rights leaders, and even community leaders. Find a biography of someone famous and learn what he or she did to be a great leader.

Do you get along well with adults? Leaders must be able to interact positively with people of all ages—not just peers, or friends their own ages. Spending time with adults (like your parents and their friends or teachers) is a good way to build strong communications skills.

Are you a problem solver? Are you the type of person who likes to solve problems? Sometimes, leaders know how to help people fix conflicts with others. Leaders often take the first steps to correct mistakes or solve problems.

Do you have a good sense of humor? It's not easy to be a good leader and you might often find yourself in tough situations. If you take every issue too seriously, you might not be able to solve problems that come your way. Try to laugh at things from time to time, including yourself.

Do you try to improve as you go? Learning from past mistakes can make you a very smart leader. It's also a good idea to figure out what your weaknesses are. Everyone has some weaknesses. Good leaders recognize their weaknesses and learn to turn them into strengths.

Do you feel comfortable voicing your opinion? Sometimes, you may feel a certain way about an issue or a situation, but you're not sure about saying so. Strong leaders often share their opinions with others, even if they feel that a lot of people disagree. It often requires self-confidence.

Are you a good role model? Great leaders know how to lead by example, meaning they act first rather than tell people what to do. You have to do the right thing at all times. Sitting quietly, for example, when your teacher asks for the class's attention, is one way to be a good role model.

Contributing teachers:

Amy Morgan-Foster teaches English to 9th and 10th graders at EBC East New York High School for Public Safety and Law in Brooklyn, New York. She is also the debate team coach.

Cathy Greenwood teaches 7th- and 8th-grade English at Rippowam Cisqua School in Bedford, New York. She serves as the president of the Westchester Council of English Educators and is on the executive board of the New York State English Council.

Patricia Power has taught English, AP Language, and Reading Applications at South Texas Business, Education, and Technology Academy (BETA) in Edinburg, Texas, for the last 10 years. She was named BETA's teacher of the year for 2005 by the principal of the school.

Jennifer Chandler is a 6th-grade Language Arts teacher at E.L. Wright Middle School in Columbia, South Carolina. She has a Web site for colleagues, her students, and their parents at

Paula Conley was named Idaho's 2005 Teacher of the Year. She teaches 7th-grade Language Arts at Canfield Middle School in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. She is also a Scholastic Teacher Fellow.