This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Mogan Perry who exemplifies leadership skills in both the academic and athletic settings. Morgan is a mature, responsible, kind and caring person who believes in the importance of strong, positive role models. She goes out of her way to assist others and works hard to create an open and welcoming atmosphere. As a result of her patience, compassion and competence she was promoted to “Chief of Early Learning” at Kumon in Natick. Morgan works with 3-7 year olds instructing them with carefully designed individualized programs. Her face lights up when she describes the rewarding experience of working with these students and knowing that she is helping them progress at their own speeds.
In addition to her devotion to her students, she is devoted to the athletic arena, playing both club hockey and lacrosse (earning a spot as captain during her junior year). When asked how she became interested in hockey, she described her early experience in learn-to-skate. Her parents had enrolled her starting at a young age, 6-7 years old, and after the class she would see the boys enter the ice for hockey. Her response: “why can’t I do that?” Years later, she continues to play club hockey, taking on the role of captain when her team went to Nationals and won. Although the leadership role may be different on and off of the ice, she continues to model high expectations for those around her.
Q: During our conversation you mentioned that you were promoted to “Chief of Early Learning.” What responsibilities do you have with this role and what leadership qualities do you feel are necessary to be successful when working at Kumon?
A: In my role as “Chief of Early Learning” I believe I am held to a higher standard and must make sure that I follow the “Kumon Method” strictly. I am always trying to answer any questions the other instructors may have or give advice and tips on making the process more efficient. I also train new hires and make sure that I observe how they are learning and correct them if I notice anything that they may not have mastered yet. I always have to be at the top of my game because with the children’s individualized learning plans it is very important to stay on task. To work at Kumon you must be patient, focused, passionate, hardworking, and creative. Over the years, I have gotten to observe the style in which each student learns and I adapt the way I approach each child accordingly. I have developed “games” that I use to get the students through the worksheets quicker and reward them with an extra sticker when they follow along. It is also really important that when you get to Kumon you are patient and kind. My boss who has become a great role model for me has always said “it doesn’t matter if you just failed a test or had a horrible day, when you walk through that door you put a happy face on”. This has stuck with me because kids will not understand if you divert any negative energy towards them. It can be hard to control two energetic 5 year olds, but being patient and kind makes it much easier.
Q: While instructing students through your work at Kumon, you mentioned that it has “sparked a passion for teaching.” What is it that you love about teaching and how has it changed your perception of your own teachers?
A: I have always been good with children and I enjoy anything that involves interacting with people. When I am with a student at Kumon I understand that it may be challenging, but I believe it is so important to begin to develop good learning habits even at a young age. My love for teaching was actually sparked at one particular moment in my first month at Kumon when I was helping a 1st grader in math. He looked down at his classwork and noticed “new symbols”: subtraction signs. I began to explain to him what subtraction was, gave examples, and by the end of the class he knew how to subtract. Seeing his attitude shift from the start to end of that class was one of the best feelings. Although just a basic thing like subtraction, I went home that day feeling so proud that I had just taught him something. I have so much respect for my teachers because now I can see truly how much effort goes into teaching. Explaining things can be so hard especially when a student is frustrated or confused, so when my teachers take that extra time to explain it makes me realize how much they care. Some students at Kumon will draw me pictures, give me a hug, or just tell me that they are so happy to see me. I always feel so much joy when this happens to me so I make sure to always thank my teachers for everything they do. I try to make close connections with my teachers and tell them how much I appreciate them because I know how much it can affect their days, just like it affects mine.
Q: The students you work with have individualized programs that are customized to their needs. Are there ways for teachers to bring this individualized approach into the high school setting?
A: At Kumon, each student has an individualized learning plan tailored to their learning level, style, and pace. Students are more successful when they can learn in a way that works for them, and I have seen this countless times throughout the years. Kumon also stresses independence because it allows students to get a real feeling for what they are and are not comfortable with. Naturally, it is easier for high school teachers to teach in the same way to each student because it is more efficient for the class as a whole. However, without completely changing the way their class runs, teachers could develop more choices. For example, some students are better working alone but some excel in collaboration with others. Some can spit out facts verbatim while others aren’t strong test-takers. Offering various types of assessments: essays, exams, projects, presentations, etc. is the best and easiest way to make sure that each student has an opportunity to showcase their strengths. The teachers that typically lecture and use PowerPoints could give a group assignment one day and those who tend to give lots of classwork can show a video. I think with assessment variation and different levels of courses, Holliston High School is doing a great job with trying to adapt to different learning styles while moving at the right pace.
Q: What is your leadership style and are there differences for you when leading in an athletic setting versus an academic setting?
A: I have always believed that there are many different types of leaders and I have learned this to be true through my leadership roles in academic and athletic situations. There is the strict “bad cop”, the spirit lifter, and the one who leads by example. My leadership style in athletics tends to be the hard worker and I strive to set an expectation for others to follow. I try to be a role model and take underclassmen under my wing because that makes a huge difference in team chemistry. In difficult situations I stay very positive and never give up because it only takes one person to bring a whole team down. In athletics you are leading your peers and it is your responsibility to earn the respect from your teammates. Sometimes captains have to make a decision for the team and not everyone will agree, but you have to get past that. I have found that being positive and kind is the best way for me to lead in an athletic setting. At Kumon, it is easy to lead because the kids know that I am the instructor and they automatically look up to me. In academics you have to create an authority for yourself which makes it easier to lead. Being a leader is a learning process, and sometimes you have to take on different leadership styles based on the situation.