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Don't Fall, Double Down

The days are getting shorter, the weather cooler, the leaves are changing color and beginning to tumble to the ground. As a season, we call it Fall. What an interesting name for a season. Fall, as a name, more than its next-door neighbors, summer and winter, truly captures the feeling of the season. With the shortened daylight hours, Fall begets a diminishing of activity, a pulling back, as we prepare for the long winter lurking around the corner. 

As we pull away and start to hunker down, it becomes really easy to begin to fall off from the commitment to WEB and Link Crew. Orientation is a distant memory at best, regular school days might be feeling like they are bit of a grind and enthusiasm of Leaders (as well as yours) could be waning. Now, more than ever, it is important to double down on commitment to the program and to your Leaders so that they may continue to reach out in support of the 6th/9th graders. Leaders must still continue to be inspired and trained, to give them skills, as well as motivation, to step up when needed. They too are feeling the season; continuing to motivate and inspire them will ensure that they remain united and steadfast in their mission. Right now, no one knows how true this is better than WEB Coordinator, Tom Blair from South Milwaukee Middle School in Wisconsin.

Tom recently sent us this story that captures the necessity of WEB beyond orientation day and, more significantly, the role it can play in a crisis: “I received word yesterday that one of my 7th grade students had passed away unexpectedly. First time in my career I am dealing with the death of a current student. When I arrived this morning I went down to the lunchroom where our student body meets before our school day starts and there was a completely different tone to the room. As students started to filter in I noticed our WEB leaders wearing their WEB shirts. I didn't think much of it until I realized that most were wearing it. Worried that I might have forgotten about a WEB commitment or activity for the day, I asked one of the boys why they were all wearing the shirt. He told me some of the leaders heard about the 7th grader and the rumor was that he been being picked on or bullied, so they started a text string telling the leaders to wear their WEB shirts. I asked whose idea it was or why they did it and nobody had an answer. Who cares whose idea it was anyways, right? It just dawned on me at that moment that when the leaders were confronted with something that they weren't sure how to deal with they saw the WEB shirts as a place to draw strength and a sense of community from. I almost lost it in front of the kids.”

Because those Leaders understood their mission and because Tom had done a great job keeping them mindful of it, they were able to step forward and be true leaders during South Milwaukee Middle School’s very dark time. You never know when your Leaders will be needed and you never know how but what you do know is, at some point, they WILL be. Whether it’s to offer support during a school crisis or to simply help a 6th/9th grader who’s lost in the hallway, they matter. Your Leaders need to know that even though Orientation and all the hoopla that surrounds it is over, their job is only just beginning. How will you continue to keep them enthused and focused on their role? What seeds can you plant now, during fall that will continue to grow well into spring?

Regular and relevant meetings that offer purpose and inspiration are paramount right now. These meetings can be the glue that keeps your program unified and consistent throughout the year. Additionally, they offer the opportunity to continue to communicate with your WEB and Link Crew Leaders their vital the role in helping create a school that is connected and caring. For a great resource in having effective Leader Meetings, refer to your Follow Up Handbook pages 35- 37*.

And, if you haven’t done so already, now is a GREAT time to present the concept of Leader Initiated Follow Ups to your Leaders. Empower your WEB and Link Crew to be Leaders everywhere, every time. For a brush up on Leader Initiated Contacts, how they work and an effective way to introduce them to your Leaders, check out your Follow Up Handbook 32-33*.

Tom’s story, while tragic, reminds us during this seasonal transition into fall, the importance of continuing the work that started back on Orientation Day. That kind of response just doesn’t happen, it has to be cultivated and nurtured. Because the WEB Leaders understood their role and its value, they knew and understood that it was time for them to step up and wearing their t-shirts was one way they could do it. Continuing to invest in your Leaders and your program now will yield results not just in a crisis, but in every day life at your school. 

 

*Page numbers referenced are from the 2012 Follow Up Handbook; if you have and older version, please refer to the table of contents for “Leader Meetings” and “Leader Initiated Contacts” to get the correct page numbers.

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