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The Co-curricular Confidence

This past week St. Clement’s hosted a visiting committee comprised of educators from across Canada, as well as one member from the Dominican Republic. This visit was one component of an accreditation process for Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) member. At the end of the three-and-a-half day process we received very positive feedback. In addition to noting the very strong academic program we provide for our girls, the committee pointed several areas unique to St. Clement’s, especially the authentic and committed student leadership across age groups, with mentorship of junior leaders by seniors and a strong sense of responsibility for our younger students shown by our older students.

While there are a variety of specific leadership programs for our girls, it is our belief that leadership skills are also fostered and learned through participation in co-curricular experiences- those opportunities beyond the classroom. The capacity to lead depends very much on skills such as flexibility, intuitiveness, adaptability and the ability to work with a variety of people. In addition, a leader requires traits such as courage and resilience.

Our girls build a strong sense of confidence and capacity, combined with academic skills and experience as they make their way from Junior School through to graduation at St. Clement’s. These skills are nurtured within all of our clubs, our arts and our athletics. Several recent events and conversations come to mind that support this.

  • A week ago three senior students competed in the Richard Ivey high School Case Conference and performed extremely well. St. Clement’s School was the only school to have all three participants reach the final round. Comments by one judge indicated that our girls were calm and confident, spoke articulately, and demonstrated an ability to quickly answer questions with excellent, well-considered ideas.
  • On Saturday I attended a Vex Robotics competition where St. Clement’s had entered three teams to compete against a number of girls’, boys’ and co-ed teams. Many of our girls had exposure to Lego Robotics during their time in the Junior School and have brought their experiences and skills forward. I watched our girls as they worked through each match, adapting technique, approaching difficulties with resilience, and rising to the occasion again and again. The success of their technical skills depended on their attitude and approach to problem solving.
  • Students participating in the Fulford Debating Competition at UTS this weekend must have the capacity to communicate with clarity and conviction and the ability to argue both sides of a resolution. While all of our participants performed very well, one of our students achieved a third place and citation for her work.

As well, over the last several days, I have had conversations with others highlighting the notion that our girls’ experiences beyond the classroom are fundamental to nurturing leadership.

On Friday evening I was speaking with the Director of our upcoming production of Fame, who was explaining the complexities of rehearsing without a set. She indicated this was fairly standard for most productions and that actors must be prepared to work around these fairly significant issues- to be able to adapt quickly to change. She commented that while it can be complex, the girls learn to adjust to the realities of productions.

Finally, in conversation with a friend who works at a colleague school, I found that we both agreed that leadership is so often fostered through participation in athletics.  Participants must understand that while their own performance is important, they must work with others to build a team in order to achieve success. Athletes must adapt to differing conditions and competitors in a strategic and agile manner.

Leadership requires confidence. Opportunities for the acquisition of leadership skills must extend beyond the classroom and formal leadership programs to allow girls to shine in their areas of interest and passion. It is here where they gain their co-curricular confidence.


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