Written by Andrew Chang, Jr. Facilitator and Student at Shanghai American School Pudong
Being with others, I have always pursued that sense of total immersion, a feeling that transcends mere obligation, to cultivate a more profound and organic relationship between people. As a member of JUMP!’s Junior Facilitator Program, I have not only experienced the growth of a committed, supportive group of students from Shanghai and Hangzhou, but have also learned and demonstrated strategies for inspiring confidence within all members of a team. Over the past two months, I have gained tremendous insight into the possibilities that can arise among individuals, while bolstering my capacities in leadership, observation, and facilitation.
Learning With Students From Different Schools
My experience with JUMP! was unique in that it was not confined to members of any one school, but rather entailed the congregation of representatives from SCIS (our host), Concordia, Hangzhou International School, and SAS Pudong. Though hailing from different institutions, every student was incredibly welcoming from the very beginning, and this goodwill only continued to expand as we progressed through two leadership training sessions in February.
During this time, we collectively distinguished the concrete, top-down nature of management from the more fluid, discovery-based qualities of facilitation, refined our public-speaking skills to a startling degree, and otherwise engaged in a series of activities and discussions that continually pushed us beyond the everyday and familiar, to embrace those opportunities outside the realm of dull comfort. Above all, the challenges that I experienced during training allowed me to acknowledge the driving force behind all empowered teams: trust.
As the current President of the Student Council at SAS Pudong, I have occasionally encountered bouts of doubt, and have looked for a means of resolving these silent tensions, this uncertainty beyond immediate control. Following one training activity wherein each student was silently lifted into the air and then placed safely onto the ground by his peers, however, I was able to consider again the importance of trust between people, and the steadfast purpose that conquers all doubt.
As I collaborated with the other students – individuals who I had met just hours before – I realized the great willingness to trust in all people, and reaffirmed a fundamental sense of hope that has since colored my relationships substantially. This sentiment of trust was further consolidated through an activity that occurred on the second day of training, during which everyone partnered up and took turns answering the question, “Who are you?” This single prompt incited a wealth of introspection, and the exchanges that followed signified the full extent to which the team had bonded together.
It was one of the program’s most exhilarating experiences.
Putting Our Skills to Test
Having become certified Junior Facilitators, we met again in March to exhibit our earlier work and facilitation strategies during the Spring 2014 ACAMIS conference at SCIS. Demonstrating the values of experiential and student-led learning, each Junior Facilitator helped emphasize JUMP!’s commitment towards “turning education on its head,” as we helped facilitate a gymnasium full of educators and administrators through a number of activities. In spite of initial anxieties, we quickly overcame any hesitations to ensure a sincere and productive experience for everyone involved.
Though I was struck by the enthusiasm and teamwork with which the educators approached and overcame each challenge (the sight of sixteen administrators maneuvering on one tarp was especially refreshing), I was still more absorbed by the thoughts that emerged during the debriefing period following each activity; questioning and conversing with my group of educators, I was delighted by the sharing and scaffolding that occurred within the team, and realized the same themes of trust, shared direction, and clear communication that help define the professional world.
Embracing Facilitation as a Student Leader
Experiencing so much in the past two months, I presently embrace facilitation as the most effective means of inspiring a strong, purposeful team. Facilitation appeals to me in that it manifests itself differently from person to person, such that one great facilitator may adopt an exuberant, lively approach, and another may choose a more succinct, self-effacing means of motivating growth in other people. I want to thank Justin, Alex, Bo, and everyone else at JUMP! for setting me on the path towards developing my own style of facilitation, and likewise want to acknowledge my fellow Junior Facilitators for the brilliant values that they each contributed to our group. I am applying these new strategies within the Student Council and beyond, and hope to help others realize the greatness within themselves.