Learning to be leaders

Washington County students gather for retreat

Washington County students gather for retreat

September 23, 2008|By BRIGITTE GREWE / Pulse Correspondent

It's only two days, but students who gather for the annual Maryland Leadership Workshop Leadership Retreat can learn a lot in that short period of time.

Every year, student leaders in Washington County are given the opportunity to attend a two-day camp at Fairview Outdoor School in Clear Spring. This year's Leadership Retreat was Aug. 11 and 12.

I attended this past summer's retreat. It wasn't my first time because I had attended two leadership retreats since I started middle school. Fairview is an extremely amusing and enjoyable experience that even if you aren't a leader, the activities are fun and they really do enhance your leadership skills. 

I'm a member of student government at North Hagerstown High School. Part of our duties for last school year was to attend regular county student government meetings at Washington County Technical High School. At these meetings, student governments from Washington County public middle and high schools attended. We would discuss events affecting our community, and give school reports and talk about things we can do to make each of our schools a better place.


It was during one meeting that Eugene Ebersole, social studies curriculum and instruction specialist, passed out fliers for the leadership retreat at Fairview Outdoor School.

I was excited and looking forward to attend this year's retreat because of the fun I had on past retreats.

But when I asked around, none of my student government friends were going. So I asked my friend, Harley Harrison, to apply, even though she wasn't a member of SGA.

Getting started

On Aug. 11, Harley and I were packed and ready to go to Fairview. My mom drove Harley and me to the roundhouse where we joined a group of about 35 students. There were at least two students from almost all of the Washington County Public Schools. Clear Spring had the most students attending at about eight.

We were welcomed by Ron Dhindsa, one of the Maryland Leadership Workshop leaders who would be running the "camp," and then introduced us to a large group of enthusiastic college-aged students. Soon we were off to our first activity, which was the learning unit. For the two days we spent at the retreat, we went around to three learning units, had a meal and did team building (which was when we all got together, got energized or played a game) and another learning unit. 

All the students were separated into four groups: A, B, C, and D, and we would rotate to each of our learning units. I was in group D and my first learning unit was called Group Dynamics. In this class, we learned about the different types of groups of people there are, which are voluntary and involuntary; large and small; formal and informal; and long term and short term.

Voluntary is when you are in a group willingly and for something you believe in. Involuntary is when you are put into a group, such as by counting off. The large groups, small group and formal groups are groups with set rules and planned activities and informal groups have no rules, and are free flowing. Finally, long-term groups are ones you will stay in for a long and set period of time. And short-term groups are the groups are ones that don't last and you might meet for short period of time.

We also learned how when in a group, what steps you should take to work cooperatively and to achieve your goal. These steps were storming, norming, forming, performing and adjourning. To efficiently work in your group, you just have to work through out the phases of group development and depending on your group; you might be able to skip some steps.

After lunch, we progressed to Learning Unit II, which was self awareness. In that class, we learned about finding the positives in ourselves and the negatives and how to enhance the positives and work on the negative.

The best thing I learned in this class was that I have many strengths that I would have never thought of, such as my compassion for others or my organization. But one of my weaknesses is that I don't work too well under pressure.

After that unit, we went to a team building activity where we played games, such as a game similar to Simon Says called Captain's Coming and a game called Squeeze.

In Captain's Coming, the "captain" stands in front of the group and says set commands like "captain's ball," "beached whale," "man over board," "row boat," "bow," "stern," "port," "starboard" or "captain's coming."

Each one has its own stance or motion when said but when the captain says "captain's coming," everyone has to freeze and salute until she or he says "at-ease." But if someone says another command right after "captain's coming" without saying "at-ease" and another person does it, he or she loses. During team building, we also sing or chant songs to boost up our energy and to work as a team.

More learning

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