By: Tom Goulding

Now that school has come into full swing, you likely want to instill in your students the necessities of learning and perseverance. Anyone can sit at the front of the room or desktop and tell students what assignments they need to complete and when, but great teachers foster student leadership abilities. Here are eight tips on how to lead and create student leaders:

1. Keep communication concise, clear and open

With an overabundance of information, there’s room for misinterpretation. The way you communicate with your students should be open and straightforward. When you are responsible for that many people, a “one-size-fits-all” approach is counterintuitive. Do your best to meet your students where they are, and customize your communication style for each.

2. Establish and meet expectations

When you ask something of your students, explain the “why” of the ask. Get specific with your students about the goals of your lesson plan and what you expect from them. Tell them what they should expect from you as the class progresses, which can create an invaluable two-way channel for feedback.

3. Put them in charge

Students should be given leadership opportunities, whether they present to the class or lead a smaller discussion or project group. This level of collaborative learning results in several benefits, such as better retention, higher self-esteem and teamwork abilities, per Cornell University.

4. Know when to give them leeway

This one can be tricky because every student needs a different amount of discipline or freedom to put their best effort forward. With students in leadership roles, there needs to be room to experiment and even fall short. Shortcomings often can be great lessons to build perseverance and critical thinking.

5. Encourage extracurricular activities

When less traditional classroom activities are available, students can naturally take the initiative to express themselves. Clubs and teams help students find their interests and pursue them. These are often team and individual sports, history, tech and debate clubs.

6. Keep your lesson plans adaptable

Good leaders are open and receptive to change. If a discussion is going in an interesting direction, allow the thread to be pulled a little — students can direct your discussion to something that might be more valuable than what you originally planned. Everyone brings a unique perspective and if you give students room to grow, they can help reinforce your lesson objectives in powerful ways.

7. Remain optimistic

This isn’t to say you always need to be positive — everybody has bad days. When you eventually run into obstacles or misunderstandings, it’s good practice to find the silver lining and acknowledge it with your students. Maintaining a positive environment when problems occur can result in more engaged learners, better questions and enjoyment from lessons. Remaining optimistic and upbeat can be the difference between major setbacks and major comebacks.

8. Connect with your students

Saving the best tip for last – When you establish early on with your students that you’re there to teach and connect with them, trust can be built. Not every student will connect naturally with you but the effort to get to know each one’s personality, interests, strengths and weaknesses goes a long way. When you make it known that you care, it can help students become confident in their capabilities.

Building leadership skill sets for yourself and your students can serve as a major boost for your classroom. With these eight tips, your students can become more fulfilled as lifelong learners.