How to Be a Better Leader: From Principal Yu to You

Principal Yu and his students share what they have to say about his new elective.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Anthony Sun

Starting from the 2022-23 school year, Principal Seung Yu has introduced a new, one-term elective called Leadership and Decision-Making. The course is intended to teach students about the methods, examples, and effects of good decision-making. The class takes place on the first floor in room 107, the Conference Room, outside of Principal Yu’s office space.

The class involves learning to build life skills through activities like reading and active discussion. Given Principal Yu’s background in English, including his experience as a former English teacher at the High School for Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn, his course is classified as an English elective. “The course is intended to have students explore, learn, and practice the tenets of leadership approaches and facilitation. Furthermore, students are exposed to readings and activities focused on decision-making and the processes to inform better decisions particularly in working within group settings,” Principal Yu said in an e-mail interview.

The idea behind this elective is partially rooted in needing enough classes to offer to the abnormally large graduating class but is also rooted in wanting to provide more courses that teach so-called soft skills and prepare Stuyvesant students for life after high school. “As a school we must constantly consider how we are preparing students for postsecondary education, career opportunities, and self-sustaining adulthood,” Principal Yu said. “We want to complement our course catalog with classes that expose students for life-oriented preparation such as Personal Finance and the course I’m teaching.”

Despite the course’s recent creation, 33 out of 34 seats are filled as some students are looking forward to taking a class that differs from the traditional courses at Stuyvesant. “I chose to take a break from some of the more standard classes at Stuy and to explore a new field I am passionate about,” senior Efe Kilic said. “Though it was a shot in the dark to take such a mysterious and unorthodox class, I feel that it was a bullseye.”

Principal Yu hopes that his students will be able to take away what they learn about how to become better leaders and apply that to real-life situations. “I wanted to offer a course that could help students practice becoming stronger leaders and making more informed decisions in working and leading others,” he said.

According to his students, Principal Yu has created a welcoming classroom environment where students can feel free to contribute their insights. “His class is very collaboration-based and engages everyone, no matter how introverted or extroverted they are outside his class,” senior William Vongphanith said in an e-mail interview.

Students also report that Principal Yu has been successful in creating a low-stress environment where students can hone their leadership skills at their own pace. “His class is a breath of fresh air because everyone has a chance to speak out their ideas and not have to raise their hand,” senior Brian Kang said in an e-mail interview. “With the ability to get chances at facilitating discussions as leaders to talking in small groups, everyone gains new experience he refers to as ‘comfortable discomfort.’”

Regarding the class format, the first five minutes of the class involve independent writing and reviewing homework and classwork. The purpose of having the students write in their provided journals during this class is to record new insights, new and interesting moments, and to learn by writing.

However, due to the newness of this course, the structure of the class is yet to be solidified. “We are still in the middle of creating a ‘decorum’ for our class—essentially a set of guidelines we’ll be operating under in the class,” senior Andrey Sokolov said in an e-mail interview.

In the classroom, students build off of each other’s contributions to class discussion. “The class is in a seminar style where participating is geared toward your peers and there isn't necessarily a wrong or right answer—just another perspective or consideration,” senior Skai Nzeuton said in an e-mail interview.

At the same time, positive classroom experiences are limited not only to the students taking the class but also to the teacher. “As the instructor, I get to share my experiences and understanding of leadership and decision-making with the students while also learning from all of them about their leadership journey[s],” Principal Yu said.

Principal Yu finds that by assuming a teaching role, he also gains the perspective of a teacher at Stuyvesant. “Teaching this class gives me direct experience [regarding] the everyday responsibilities of our teachers and what they are managing in order to produce a positive and challenging learning environment,” he said.

There is a general consensus among his students that being given the occasional opportunity to lead the class themselves is beneficial to their learning and skill-building in the class. “Mr. Yu made the introduction to the class feel more inviting. I love how the class is taught not just by Mr. Yu but [also] by our fellow peers,” senior Safika Alam said in an e-mail interview. “We set our own rules about how to run the class and encourage each other to share ideas.”