Before going on to examine some of the aspects of our workshops with younger students and how they might apply to our activities in the community during a pandemic, I’m going to attempt a definition of Peer Leadership:
Peer leadership is a new kind of leadership practice in which the welfare and growth of another person is balanced in priority to the tasks, goals, and greater purposes of whatever work you have come together to achieve.
In this new practice of leadership we are attempting to create a school culture where the gaining of marks, or resume enhancing activities, for instance, is balanced with the conscious development of our own and others personal growth. Only in this way will we create schools that are supportive learning communities, which in turn sets us on the road to building a diverse society creating fairness, opportunity, and inclusion for all its members.
By balancing our personal lives and growth with our achievements we are enhancing the importance of social justice issues, and environmental concern, by making them intrinsic to our success- rather than seeing them as categories of concern we will address whenever we can.
As a Peer Leader we have practiced a skill that can help us pursue this balance. When we train together we practice having a dual vision when we lead a workshop. This means essentially that in our interactions with another person during a workshop we pay attention to both how the person executes the work, and to the results of the work together.
Practicing a dual vision means we are observing in a non-judgmental way the feelings and behaviours of our partners as they do an exercise in a workshop, as well as how well they can execute the actual mechanics of the exercise to achieve results. This means we have shifted our focus to include the person, rather than solely on the results.
We are paying attention to the development of self-expression and competency, rather than just the results, and the ranking of those results.
If we think about it for a minute, this is likely the basic position we all experience when working with a loved one. We would never hurt or humiliate someone we care about over what they failed to achieve. Rather, we mentor them both in their feelings and process of work, so that they feel empowered and supported to try again.
This dual vision is exactly what this pandemic is asking us to practice with everyone in our communities. As Peer Leaders we are being asked to extend our help to strangers whose response to the challenges of isolation due to the pandemic may be very different from our own.
This way we can continue to build our network of friendships, and our community at large, by avoiding either victimizing or judging people whose responses to the pandemic are divisive, in that they are dangerous to the more vulnerable, and/or abrasive and angry.
As Peer Leaders we are always working simultaneously on personal growth and self-awareness on the one hand, and the growth of our communities for the welfare of all.