Talking Initiative with Abby Fereday

Each month, Athlos focuses on a specific Performance Character trait as part of the Performance Character pillar. Athlos believes it’s important to help students first recognize and then develop Performance Character strengths—traits like leadership, curiosity, creativity, and initiative. These concepts are part of daily academic instruction, athletic activities, and community events that take place in Athlos schools.

In the following Q&A, our Pillar Success Manager, Abby Fereday, discusses the importance of initiative in education.

Getting to Know Abby Fereday

Abby received her bachelor’s degree in English teaching with a literacy specialization from the University of Montana, and a character development certification from the University of San Diego. Prior to joining the Athlos team, Abby taught English in Boise, Idaho and Dublin, California.

“Initiative is to success what a lighted match is to a candle.” – Orlando Aloysius Battista

Q. What is initiative?
A. Initiative means being willing to take the first step into something new. This step might be to help someone else; it might be to further a passion; it might be to conquer a fear. But it all comes down to a willingness to step out into the unknown.

Q. Why is initiative an important character trait for people to have and for students to embrace during the process of learning?
A. Learning to take initiative is a key component to the development of every other Performance Character trait. It requires courage to take initiative. Stepping out into the unknown necessitates a bit of grit. Learning how to tactfully take action requires well-tuned social intelligence. Ultimately, without initiative, there is very little learning; and without learning, there is no opportunity for growth and positive change.

Q. What makes a person with initiative stand apart from those without?
A. They are constantly bettering themselves. A person willing to take initiative is always growing and learning. They do not become stagnant, and they are continually looking for ways to better the world around them.

Q. How does exercising initiative relate to success in life?
A. While taking initiative can definitely welcome a steep learning curve at times, someone willing to take action, rather than watch others take action, is likely to open many more doors that, in turn, can lead to greater successes.

Q. How can initiative be taught to students?
A. I believe a safe classroom environment where teachers are willing to take risks and be wrong, and encourage their students to do the same, is one that will naturally foster initiative. We all have great ideas and new things we want to try. For kids, sometimes it takes both being told and shown how to take that first step, and knowing it’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time around, for them to really dive in and take action.

Q. How does Athlos teach this trait to its students?
A. The inclusive, risk-taking culture Athlos classrooms strive to provide for students is the perfect platform for kids to practice initiative. Also, the model encourages teachers to give students regular opportunities to be student-leaders in the classroom. This gives the kids hands-on experience learning to take initiative. And as part of the Performance Character curriculum, students also engage in daily huddles during which they may discuss the importance of initiative and engage in activities designed to elicit the trait.

Q. Why is initiative such an important part of the Athlos model? How does initiative help students achieve their goals?
A. The Athlos model aims to enable and empower kids to strive for success and make a positive mark on the world, and taking initiative is the first step to both. Helping kids learn to take risks and understand that failure is a necessary stepping stone to success prepares them for the challenges they will overcome throughout their years in school and beyond.

Q. What does a world without initiative look like?
Stagnant. I imagine a lifeless, dark, cold existence. Initiative brings energy and excitement. The willingness to step into the unknown, to take action, to be bold—all these things are what keep innovation and progress alive.

Q. What experiences have you had teaching initiative or experiencing initiative in the classroom?
A. I spent several years as a middle school teacher prior to coming to Athlos. In this role, I always looked for opportunities to encourage student choice and leadership. Empowering kids to choose a path necessitates initiative; encouraging them to be leaders opens the door to even more opportunity to practice. A classroom where both choice and student leadership are a norm is typically a classroom full of kids learning every day how to find their voice, take action, and lead positive change.

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