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Learning to be Super: City Year’s Leadership Lunch Curriculum Supports Social-Emotional Growth

Starting the City Year experience, the thing I was most looking forward to being involved in was Leadership Lunch. I was excited to incorporate social emotional learning into the school day because I would have loved to have something like this when I was in 3rd grade, as these skills are just as crucial as reading or math. Research is increasingly showing that social emotional learning (SEL) is a key part of a student’s education, and focusing on it can improve academic achievement by an average of 11 percentile points while also increasing students’ optimism, satisfaction with school, and general well-being.  

The Leadership Lunch curriculum, part of City Year’s Whole School, Whole Child model, focuses on several key competencies, including relationship skills, decision-making, self-management, and more. My role as a City Year is to work with a group of students in my class on their social emotional learning over the year to develop them into the most incredible leaders they can beNow, being a little over a month into the process, Leadership Lunch certainly has not disappointed. 

I was fortunate to work closely with my partner teacher to pick the focus group of four students, each of whom is incredibly special. I wanted to get my students excited for a year-long commitment of coming to lunch with me twice a week, so I created the Super Leader Club. They were given a top-secret letter that was an invitation to leadership lunch which revealed that Beech Street School needs great leaders, and a super hero club will help them learn how to be super. I was amazed that one of the students whom I had not heard speak the entire year looked at the invitation and said, “Oh I am so going to this.” With all my students on board for the club, each session I am still continuously surprised at how excited the students are to do each activity. 

Badges from Meredith's Super Leaders Club

Our first month focused on self-awareness. Here we discussed our strengths and how to manage emotions effectively. We played emotions bingo which was a big hit. Students got to learn about some complex emotions such as anxiousness and guilt, and we expanded upon common emotions like anger and happiness. By the end of the month students were able to express themselves more and had methods to deal with their emotions appropriately.  

Rules for the Super Leader Club

To continue with the theme of superheroes, we then created super powers and superhero names. Each student created a fictional super power and a real-life strength they can use to make Beech Street School a better community. Some of their powers included teleportation, reading minds, and being super-fast, while others included the ability to make people laughbeing flexible with others, having patience, and super kindness.  

Each lunch, students come in very excited for the next activity. Even the quiet students in the group come up to me during the day to ask me what the activity for Leadership Lunch is. I have found the students have been more comfortable approaching me if they need anything and they are starting to become friends with one another, which warms my heart. They are even sharing their successes with me which is such a difference from the beginning of the year. They are starting to take pride in their work and think positively about themselves.  

At the end of the month students earn badges on the topic we focused on, and they get to decorate their badge to show off their hard work. This month we are focusing on social awareness, which is how our actions affect others and what we can do to make other’s lives easier. Our first activity was teaching me, a “robot”, how to stand up by explaining every step on how to stand, because I had not been programmed to know how to stand. The students loved this activity and really understood why we did it. Together they explained that everyone thinks differently, and we need to learn many different ways to explain something so everyone can be involved.  

I am excited to continue working with these incredible students and see what lessons they can learn through our activities. I am truly fortunate for my time with these students because every session they amaze me with their experiences and wisdom. 

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