NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Elementary students at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, are asked to apply and interview for school-wide leadership rolls in an attempt to build confidence and teach life skills.
"We have a philosophy here: If it doesn't take a degree, let a kid do it," said Metro Nashville Public Schools' Fall-Hamilton Elementary School Principal Mathew Portell who began the optional program in 2015.
"It comes down to empowering our kids to identify their own genius," explained Portell. "I have a feeling that some of our kids will probably be interviewing someone on TV one day because that's what they want to do or maybe doing the weather...And so it's just building their capacity to meet their fullest potential."
The 75-100 leadership rolls last about nine weeks before students train the next set of students. Students can apply to be a part of the Announcement Crew, Safety Patrol Crew, Greeting Crew, Breakfast Crew, Environment Crew, and Walkie Talkie Crew just to name a few.
Although not every student has a school-wide leadership roll at a given time, Portell said all students are eligible and "every kid has something that they're responsible for within the building" even if it is a job just in their classroom.
"We want every kid to have that sense of belonging," said Portell, "Connection, collaboration, voice and empowerment. We want every kid to experience those four things every day at school, and we do that by engaging, empowering them to be a part of our community."
Portell said he has learned much about his students through the interview process but one application he received made him stop and think.
When asked why they wanted the job, the student wrote: "I have a little sis & bro. I need requested salary and a week $20. Pay stuff for and my mommy I love my mommy so muhe I need to help my mommy my mom so I can pay the my mom bills."
Portell said although the leadership jobs are not paid, he was glad to see students were connecting work and pay.
Fall-Hamilton Elementary students are taught seven habits that they should master before they head to middle school and on the leadership job application are asked to identify how they will use the 'habits' on the job.
"Habit one is ‘be proactive.’ Habit two is ‘put first things first.’ Habit three is ‘begin with the end in mind.’ Habit four is ‘Think Win Win.’ Habit five which is on my wall over here is ‘seek first to understand then to be understood,’ which simply means just listen," explained Portell. "Habit six is ‘synergize, together is better.’ And then habit seven is ‘sharpen the saw,’ which means we have to take care of ourselves and make sure our, our saw is sharpened, so that we can be our best. And then there's a little, a little unknown eighth habit that I think our kids embrace the most and that we're probably the most proud of, and that's habit eight which is ‘find your voice.’"
Portell explained he is trying to prepare his students for their next step in life beyond the core book subjects.
"Education is not just social studies, science, mathematics and English and language arts. Education is built on so many different things and we've got to get outside of the box of thinking, what is education in the walls of a school?," questioned Portell.
As students graduate and interview for their first job, Portell said he hopes students will be able to draw upon their interview experience from elementary school.
"I think giving kids just this experience with somebody they know, somebody they trust, somebody they know cares about them, and, and just really is genuinely excited to hear from them--That gives them a foundation of expectation. Right?" said Portell. "Then as they get older, right, the intensity is going to probably increase, the purpose is going to change, but at the end of the day they're going to be able to say, ‘I've done this, I've done interviews before.’"