Leadership training continued with a session devoted to role-playing.
Cate Wineburg visited SOAR this morning to discuss the roles students play in their peer group. She assigned roles to six students, distributing headbands to define positions for everyone except the person playing the role (who was told to "act normally"). She set the stage: Friday afternoon, ready to go home and get ready for Shabbat, exhausted from a hard week even though soccer practice and play practice looms before day's end. Despite the trying situation, the head of school (this is part of the role play), asks the class to meet and talk about the upcoming class trip. Students wore headbands defining their roles, but did not know who they were playing. Observers were asked to watch the role play. Players were asked to respond to each speaker according to the role listed on the player's head. Roles included: most popular, athletic team player, leader of the class, comedian, bully, a serious student.
Cate asked each player what it was like to have peers respond in their assigned roles. Players said that it felt strange to play a role that was uncomfortable or unfamiliar. The assigned "leader" and "popular student" acknowledged that they enjoyed playing their roles, but the"bully" felt that no one was paying attention to him and that he was pushed to the side when giving his opinion. The observers noted that they saw some of the players in a different light because of the roles assigned in this exercise.
Students talked about the bully role, adding that the bully could also be the comedian, the good student, and the class leader, possibly motivating the group to go in a different (and less positive) direction.
Cate asked what roles students play out of school and wondered if students expected role switches in high school. Evan mentioned that they would go from being eighth grade leaders to "lowly freshmen" in a new school. Matt and Evan S. thought about new opportunities and the chance to change and get a fresh start. Cate taught the concept of role freeze or role grip - locking of someone into a particular role without allowing for potential change and growth. She encouraged students to try to get to know new people beyond first impressions.
"Leadership," Cate said, "means stretching beyond the comfort zone to get to know people who may be different from oneself."She referred to non-verbal cues as 90% of communication and talked about differences in personal intention and impact on others.
Though they enjoyed the role play, students also began to reflect on their roles (past and current) in the class and how these roles will change and develop in the coming months as they transition to high school. We also spoke briefly of the upcoming Israel trip and the impact of "role freeze" versus allowing for possibility of change in new surroundings.