The Power of Peer Leadership



Do you believe young people are capable of forming transformational relationships, with little help from adults?  Is it possible for a learning community to thrive despite —  or perhaps even  because — young people do a better job of leading each other?

Here’s a mid-year update a Launchpadder recently wrote to a Middle School Squad Member (edited to preserve confidentiality.)

Dear xxxxxxxx,

This year has been amazing for you so far. Both in school and outside of school you have taken on fun and challenging adventures. I would like to mention how hard of a worker you are and how delightful it is to have you on my squad. Even when you have to  leave school for a few days for xxxxx practice, you still manage to stay on track. Not many people could do this as well as you have and I would like to encourage you to continue pursuing your passion.

Just this session I have noticed a major improvement in your writing.  Earlier this session, I read one of your deadlines and mistook for a  Launchpadder. Your level of depth and interest make your writing exciting to read. I would like to encourage you to continue writing the way you do and to continue to work hard improve.  Your hard work is paying off.

One thing I think you could improve on more is holding people accountable. I
understand when you ask certain people for Eagle Bucks, they disrupt even more by apologizing.  But I hope you will continue to ask them for Eagle Bucks and that their choices are hurting the studio.  Hold strong! 

I know it’s hard to hold your friends accountable, but in the long run, it will both stenghten your relationship and help you grow as a person too.

I’m really proud of how much you have grown this year. You have become
more independent and responsible and strengthened an already impressive work ethic and attitude. The work you do inspires everyone around you. I’m glad I have you in my squad.


xxxxx xxxxx

Imagine how you would feel if you received such encouraging words from a role model you respected.

Middle School Eagles are equally gifted at self critique and self management.  Here’s an update one Middle Schooler recently sent to parents ( again edited to preserve confidentiality):

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am writing to give you a mid-year progress report.

On a 1-5 scale, I would give myself a 4.7 for intentionality, because during school hours most of the time I feel like I have a purpose and something important to finish.  Only once in two weeks did I have a time where I didn’t feel a purpose in my work. 

On a 1-200 scale, I would give myself a 4 for being warmhearted and tough minded with my studio-mates because though I am always super warmhearted, I do have trouble holding people accountable.

I want to celebrate my hard work in earning badges and finishing previous badges I hadn’t completed yet.  My greatest need is to improve on finding and efficiently using time to finish badges.

So far this year, I have earned xx badges, bringing my total at Acton to xx badges. This session I averaged xxx  Weekly Pts.  When I get my 360 score, this will determine if I am in Freedom Level 2 or 3.

I also have read four serious books since the beginning of the year, including earning one of the total of four Deep Book Badges. I want to finish Algebra 1 by my birthday, so  I will need to complete 14 skills per week.  I will  need your encouragement to complete it  on time.

In order to move into Launchpad, next session I need to earn 115 Khan Skills and add 6 more discussions and 8 critiques to my Socratic Leader Learning Badge, plus earn 5 more badges overall. I’ll also need to average 400 Weekly Points and score a 8 or above on the 360 survey.

again, the  area where I need the most support from you is Khan, in order to finish all of my math work on time.

Thank you,


Yes, having young people lead each other is a more efficient way to run a learning community.  But that’s not the point.  Nor is it solely practice for future leaders, though that’s certainly true.

The real reason we ask young people to lead is that they often are better at leading than adults.   That’s the power of the Hero’s Journey.


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