Giles’s trip leader experience

This year I was a student leader on the 2016 kayaking trip. For the previous year I had been taking a class called “outdoor leadership seminar”. During that class, we learned the necessary techniques to becoming a good leader, and what it means to be leader. We also learned about different leadership styles, and various ways to help a group of people bond with each other. The trip is the capstone project for the whole year. Me and another senior (Altana) were student leaders.

I enjoyed the trip very much. It was a way to demonstrate practically all of the skills we had been learning academically the entire year. It was a very good way of capping off my experience being in the class, and demonstrating and using what I had learned. One aspect of the experience I found particularly difficult was keeping the group entertained and happy, something which was difficult in constant near-freezing rain which lasted the duration of the trip. One thing which surprised me about being a leader was that I felt prepared for being one. I had anticipated feeling completely out of my depth, a feeling which thankfully I did not feel while on the trip. I used a leadership style of being strict occasionally, and other times letting the group do its own thing. Sometimes people need strict guidance on what to do, but for the group dynamic to improve it is essential to give them some breathing room. I would say that this style worked fairly well. I plan to keep using this leadership philosophy, or something similar, after this trip.

From the students I learned how keep up a good attitude even when the weather conditions are horrible. It rained for most of the trip, and yet they seemed to be having a good time for the majority of the trip. I believe that peer leadership is effective. Since they see us as somewhere between peers and full fledged adult teachers, they do tend to listen to our instruction.

The activities I had planned were a mixed bag. They seemed to be having a blast with most of them, but one, a game where they had to draw a picture from memory, was not enjoyed. The biggest problem and unexpected obstacle was that the group got bored with activities much faster than expected, meaning that we had to quickly come up with new ones. In the future, I would rather overplan too many activities and not use them than plan too few.

I believe that as a leader I am good at explaining the methods behind what I am getting people to do. If you tell people “wear rain pants” they will resist because rainpants look hilariously bad and crinkle when you walk. If, however, I explain why they have to wear rainpants, ‘so your pants don’t get soaked, and because it will keep raining tomorrow they will not have time to dry out”, they are more likely to do the things that are asked of them. In the future I would like to work on coming up with more fun activities to help bring the group together. I felt that I was well prepared for my leadership role.

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