This the finale of a 5 part series on the current educational system, Mr. Franklin’s views on how to best reform the system, and the leadership elective class that he has set up as a model for this kind of change. While Mr. Franklin’s views are shared by many, they are not necessarily representative of all other educators. Read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.
A: Leadership is a form of talent – some people are naturally born leaders. But just because someone is a natural leader doesn’t mean they are necessarily a good leader, and I teach them specific skills to make them effective leaders, such as how to build a team, overcome fear, communication skills and conflict management skills. Even if a child is not a natural born leader, the skill sets learned in my class can be applied to other facets of life that will help the child make good choices and succeed. I suppose you are asking if I teach any “hands on” skills, like art. The answer is “not really”. As I said before, we need more electives, electives that cover the full spectrum of non-academic talents, so that every child can find their gift. Unfortunately, money is not herded in that direction these days and non-academic talents are going unrecognized.
Q: You have said a couple times now that you believe your leadership class benefits the students’ overall education, but can you tangibly prove that?
A: I’d guess that my class improves my students’ academics. I’ve never tried to prove it, nor is it really necessary. What’s important to me is making strides and finding and utilizing talent. That said, my class is considered an extra-curricular activity, and like all extracurricular activities, the students are required to maintain a 2.0 GPA requirement. To go on the trips, they must maintain a 2.5 GPA. I don’t obsess with the kids GPA, so long as they stay eligible. But, since the leadership class is fun and the field trips – particularly the trip to DC – are amazing, the students are motivated to keep their grades up in their academic classes. Students who are normally underachievers in certain subjects tend to do better in those subjects.
Also, I have parents tell me things like, “My daughter went from watching cartoons to CNN after enrolling in your class. Thank you.” I have had several students go on to get internships in various political offices – one even was almost accepted as a White House intern — and have thanked me for exposing them to the fact that the opportunities exist.
Q: How do you pay for all of your field trips?
A: Two words: hard work. Some of the fundraisers my students put on are for the whole school, but some are for the field trips for our class. The school is able to provide a small portion, and we ask for donations from the community. The rest is paid by students’ families. I insist that the kids work to earn their money and not have mom and dad write a check. To go to DC, the kids need to prove they mowed lawns, babysat, etc.
Also, to reduce costs, instead of using event planner/travel companies to coordinate the field trips, I do all the planning myself. For the DC trip, eliminating the travel company saves a tremendous amount of money—less we have to raise, and less families must pay themselves. It is the difference between my students being able to afford to go or not.
The hard work is necessary, and pays off in many ways. Ours DC trip is not like any other. This year, we also went to New York City, Philadelphia and Boston.
Q: How do you cram so much into one class session?
A: The class is a year long and we meet after school and sometimes on Saturdays. I made the class after school for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted students who are assigned to an extra academic class to be able to participate. Second, I didn’t want to have time constraints, making field trips, certain projects and some tasks that might run longer than the class period more viable. Doing this after school, simply put, allows for more time.
Q: It sounds like you sacrifice quite a bit of your personal time and energy for this class.
A: Yes, I do. But the impact that it has on the kids is worth it. As the enthusiastic principal at our school used to say, “The kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I cannot begin to tell you how rewarding it is to broaden kids’ horizons, to expose them to a bigger world and help them see the opportunities that exist. I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to see these children overcome incredible personal hardship thanks to the skills they learn in leadership. My hope is that as I have helped these students flourish, the students will go on to become leaders and help others in the local community, and possibly even city, state or country, flourish as well. One need not be elected to be a leader!
Q: Mr. Franklin, this leadership class is incredibly impressive. I sincerely hope for your continued success in the programs, and that other schools will begin to emulate the program!
A: It’s copyrighted. Just kidding. Thank you.
Christi Grab is contributing editor and writer for Parentella. She is a native of Southern California. After graduating from San Diego State University, she went on to be a successful business woman. In April of 2007, she and her husband decided to put their careers on hold and travel the world for two years. Ms. Grab has recently returned from her travels and is currently writing a book about their adventure. For more information on the trip, visit http://kosmos.liveflux.net/blog.