What does it mean to put first things first? What about beginning with the end in mind? These ideas are just two of the seven habits being implemented as part of the Leader in Me process at the Bucyrus Elementary School.
Teachers, staff members and administrators spent three days during their summer break learning how they can not only implement the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People in their classrooms as part of the Leader in Me process, but also how they can implement the 7 Habits in their personal lives.
"I think understanding that working on our own personal victory via being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, and putting first things first will magnify our effectiveness as inspirers of children is important," third grade teacher Kim Haldeman said. "I think knowing that any one of us can be a transition person, and that students can also be transition people, resonates with me."
The Leader in Me is a whole-school transformation model—developed in partnership with educators—that empowers students with the leadership and life skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. It is based on secular principles and practices of personal, interpersonal, and organizational effectiveness. Distinct in several ways, The Leader in Me:
- Starts from a powerful premise—that every child possesses unique strengths and has the ability to be a leader. This premise shapes the views of staff to value and develop the whole child.
- Integrates leadership development into existing school programs, curricula, and traditions in a way that does not feel like “one more thing.” More than a program, The Leader in Me serves as a foundational operating system for the school, improving relationships, transforming culture, and highly motivating staff members and students.
- Helps students learn how to become self-reliant, take initiative, plan ahead, set and track goals, do their homework, prioritize their time, manage their emotions, be considerate of others, express their viewpoint persuasively, resolve conflicts, find creative solutions, value differences, and live a balanced life. In short, The Leader in Me helps students develop the skills and self-confidence they need to lead their lives and succeed in school and beyond.
- Impacts all stakeholders starting first with the staff of a school, then moving out to students, their families, and the community at large. This inside-out approach is a key ingredient to successfully creating positive change in a school.
"I've had a lot of ideas running through my head since our training seminar and have already implemented the 7 Habits into my personal life as well adjusting plans for the start of the school year with my students," kindergarten teacher Nancy Lipscomb said. "I've replayed many of the comments and ideas discussed during the training and in conversations I've had the pleasure of having with coworkers since, and they make me smile-both personally and professionally- giving me new enthusiasm for the year."
The Leader in Me utilizes and integrates several leadership, social-emotional learning, quality, and educational models and processes from past and current thought leaders including The 4 Imperatives of Great Leaders and The 4 Disciplines of Execution. The process includes student participation in goal setting, data tracking, leadership roles, Student- Led Conferences, leadership environments, and Leadership Events. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is also a key component of the overall Leader in Me process and is a synthesis of universal, timeless principles of personal, interpersonal, and organizational effectiveness such as responsibility, vision, integrity, teamwork, collaboration, and renewal, which are secular in nature and common to all people and cultures.
“I think for me one of the most important things I got was the reminder that as people, we ALL need to find balance in our day-to-day life,” second grade teacher Rhonda Shifley said. “It is so easy in any profession, but especially a helping one such as Education to put everyone else first. While our students definitely are our #1 priority during the school day, we must find ways to ‘Sharpen our own saws’ (Habit 7) to be at our best for them every day.”
The Leader in Me process is implemented as follows:
- School staff identify a new vision of the outcomes they want for their school (e.g., decreasing discipline referrals).
- School staff learn The Leader in Me principles and tools and begin incorporating the leadership principles in their work and relationships (e.g., learning how to work more cooperatively with each other).
- School staff model the behaviors to their students.
- Teachers are taught how to incorporate the leadership principles and tools into school culture and curricula.
- Key elements of the leadership model are implemented into the school, including: Teaching students how to set, track, and achieve goals in a Leadership Notebook; Reinventing the physical environment to reinforce the vision and outcomes for the school (banners, signs, murals); Holding Student-Led Conferences, which are similar to parent-teacher conferences, yet are different in that the student takes ownership of the conference; Giving each student a leadership role within the school; Holding student-led Leadership Events; Using a common language of leadership.
- Parents also play an important role in supporting their children in the process.
- School staff, students, and parents utilize a number of resources (lesson plans, videos, student activity guides, Teacher Editions, posters, books, and www.theleaderinme.org to help them implement and reinforce the process.
"While The Leader in Me is a process for teaching students leadership skills on a micro scale, the program is ultimately a way for students, their families and the entire Bucyrus community to learn timeless skills that can lead to lifelong success," Leader in Me trainer Kevin Miller said. "Our ultimate goal is to help parents, students and the community develop a vision for their success through learning, understanding and implementing the 7 Habits in their daily lives."
The Leader in Me differs from other whole-school transformation processes in that it offers a holistic, schoolwide experience for staff, students, and parents, and creates a common language and culture within the school. The leadership principles and lessons are not taught as a curriculum, but instead are incorporated into coursework, traditions, systems, and culture.
"It will be amazing for the entire staff to have a common language as we use a ubiquitous approach to teach the habits," Haldeman said. "I envision our climate becoming far more positive as we share these expectations for leadership with our students.
"I envision this spreading to our community. I see the Bucyrus of my school days where people felt pride and a spirit of collaboration."
"I want very much to be an effective teacher, not just an efficient teacher," Lipscomb said. "I do believe in what I'm learning in the 7x7 contract- 'out of small steps great things are accomplished'. I want to be the change I want to see in the world. My world of Bucyrus & BES!"
The next training session for Bucyrus Elementary staff will take place October 23, and Miller hopes there will be opportunities to expand the training to include families and the larger Crawford County community.
“We’ve had many of the 2500-plus Leader in Me schools expand this training to include families and their communities,” Miller said. “My hope is that the positive changes taking place at Bucyrus Elementary will trickle down to their families and the entire Bucyrus and Crawford County community.”
“It has been fun getting ready for the new school year and planning lessons and classroom discussions while looking through the Leader in Me lens,” Shifley said. “I'd like to thank Mr. Kimmel (Superintendent) and our principals for supporting this process, and also the community and business partners that are helping to fund it. It is truly a group effort that I believe will pay our students and community big dividends in the future.”