Olivia Johnson

  • What is my leadership project?


    I am a member of the Mount Maunganui College Debate Squad. Recently, I have officially been appointed as the student leader of this squad.


    When did it start and when do I expect it to finish?


    Mrs. Rae approached myself and two other students last year in a last minute attempt to put together a debate team to challenge Kings College debate team while they were in Tauranga on ‘tour’. Although we were unfairly matched, I enjoyed the experience very much. Near the end of last year we made a decision to recruit more members in hope to establish several teams to debate against within the school. Debating hasn’t really kicked off at Mount College until this year where we begun to promote it further. We now have three teams in training as well as our original team. I have always been the appointed leader of my team and recently was appointed the official leader of our squad by our teacher in charge. This was very exciting as it is something I have been aiming towards for sometime now and have been helping with the squad regularly.


    Ideally the Mount Maunganui College Debate Squad will continue for years to come. I know that it will definitely continue until I leave school at the end of next year and hopefully after that someone else will be willing to take over. Our next competition (or first for our three teams in training!) is planned for the 17th of May. Unfortunately this is the same day as our Senior Ball at Mount College. Because it is the interschool debate it generally lasts the whole day, which will clash horribly with the ball for my whole team including myself, and our other senior team.


    We will continue the debate squad after this date, until I leave college and hopefully it will continue after that! It is a very long term project.


    Who initiated it?


    Mrs. Rae originally initiated the Debate Squad and has been in charge of getting it off the ground but I have taken initiative in assisting early on in the project where required.


    As a leader, what is my role in the project?


    I am the squad leader, which means that I am required to organize our weekly lunchtime practices. I have also been predominantly teaching the new students how to debate and the rules and etiquette that go along with it. As part of this position, I also run our squad Facebook page. This allows me to communicate with a large portion of the group meaning that students can let me know if they can’t come to the next meeting and ask me questions easily. It also means that I can remind the squad of the upcoming mini-debates that we have been holding within the squad at lunchtimes.


    Sadly, due to the ball and debate clash, I cannot compete this year in the WBOP Inter-School Debate. I plan to attend a large portion of the day to give my support and encouragement, without competing, meaning that I will be free to attend the ball without neglecting the squad in what will be their first proper debate.


    Who else is involved?


    Our squad is made up of two teachers, Mrs. Rae and Mrs. Gardiner. We have a total of 14 students including myself. This makes up two senior teams with two reserves and two junior teams. Only one of the senior teams has debated competitively however.


    What have the actual results of the leadership project been, at this point in time?


    At this point in time we have had several successful mini debates within our squad. I have also been able to run a lesson on debating that hopefully will be beneficial to the whole squad. We are currently organizing ourselves for the upcoming competition next weekend and so by the end of next week (after practicing every lunch time) we plan to be a lot further in the development of our newbies.


    How do I feel personally as leader of this project?


    I am really enjoying my role in this project. It makes me feel really good about myself to be able to help other students to achieve their own personal goals surrounding debating. I think that all of the students in the debate squad are very committed and dedicated to what they do and are extremely self driven. This has made my job a lot easier.


    What have I learned about my leadership style and the Five Practices of Exemplary Student Leadership, from this project?


    So far I have discovered that ‘Model the Way’ was a much harder practice to uphold than I had expected. Since I decided that this would be chosen practice, I realized that I was seeing the junior students from our squad regularly around school, which meant that I had to be a bit more conscious of how I acted. This meant being relatively composed and polite when I saw them. I also always make an effort to say hello to the squad around school, because that’s how I expect them to treat others too (particularly at our upcoming competition).


    I have discovered that I can come across as a little bit full on at times (mostly when I get excited) and so am making an effort not to do that so much. I have also discovered that I like to have individual relationships with each of the squad members. For me this means talking to them one on one occasionally and finding out how they feel rather than always addressing the group. I also am very willing to give feedback to encourage the heart which is also very important in our squad.


    As a result of this experience, what would I advise others to do to be an effective leader?


    Do your best! Not everything that a leader does will always be quite right but it is important to try because if you don’t even do that, you’ll never make any difference. Also, get to know the people that make up your team, because without them you cannot lead.