Have you heard of OBOB? It is an acronym for the Oregon Battle of the Books which is a reading competition for students starting in the 3rd grade. This is a voluntary activity where students are asked to create their own teams of four and together they read a total of 16 different books. They compete against other teams at their same grade level and are quizzed on the material. Watching several teams prepare for battles this school year, I have noticed opportunities for improving the way we teach our kids the true meaning of teamwork and leadership.
I know 2 kids compete on teams. One is a 3rd grade girl, and the other is a 5th grade boy. Both kids are avid readers and at the beginning of the school year and were eager to rally their friends to create teams. Each volunteered as captains of their teams. When I asked them what it meant to be the team captain they shrugged and said, "It means to be the leader of the team.” I then asked, "Well, what does it mean to be a leader?" They looked at me and said, "The Boss, like you are at work.”
As soon as the book list came out, both kids seemed hungry to get started reading. Both teams divided the reading list. The third graders assigned 8 books to each reader so that every book would have been read by at least two people. They wanted to be over prepared. The fifth graders team assigned 4 books to each person so that all 16 books were covered and if anyone wanted to read extra, they could. They then decided that they would occasionally meet for team meetings. The third graders decided to do it during recess while the fifth graders wanted to meet in the evening over a pizza dinner. The plan sounded great except the team captain forgot to tell his parents until day of, that four teammates would be coming over that evening. Oops!
This month, it was time to have their final team meetings an
d prepare for the competitions. When I asked both the team captains, "Are you ready for the competition?", they had an expression of discouragement. The third grader said, "We have four team members on our team but only two team members have read more than one book. Also, myself and the other strong team member are going to be out of town the day of the competition. It is a guarantee, we are going to lose." The fifth grader then looked at me and said, "My team will all be at the competition but we have not read all the books. I have read 8 books myself but there are several that we have not read and there is not enough time for us to read them before the start of the competition tomorrow." Both kids look discouraged and disappointed in themselves as captains and in their teams.
This made me realize how our youth these days are losing out on the opportunity to learn true leadership skills at a young age. In this case they volunteered for leadership roles without any guidance as to what it means to lead or even manage a team. They both focused on their personal accountability for their reading, but missed out on a learning opportunity to help lead and mentor their teammates. We as adults need to start educating ourselves and youth about leadership. I myself feel as though I failed them by not stepping in and helping at an earlier stage. In my future interactions with these kids and others, I would like to be a better teacher and mentor, in regards to leadership skills.
If you have a young person in your life, eager like these two to step up and be a leader, I would love to hear from you. It is never too early to start teaching leadership skills. I can provide some resources that can help you and them be successful for the future.