TONASKET – Tonasket Middle School Principal Jay Tyus and Counselor Josh Thayer held their first Leader in Me Parent Night Wednesday, Oct. 28, to introduce parents to the program’s concepts and how those ideas can be reinforced at home.
Tonasket’s Middle School staffed trained for three days over the summer to bring the concepts into their classrooms. The Leader in Me was developed for schools to introduce the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as written by Stephen Covey, and the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens as written by Covey’s son, Sean Covey. There are currently 2,550 Leader in Me schools worldwide.
“In the scheme of things, these ideas are timeless,” said Tyus, as he explained how Covey had researched the some of the world’s most important people and discovered them to have several traits, or habits, in common across cultures and ages.
Tyus said that when Leader in Me was written, it focused on an elementary school in South Carolina that was failing. With an impending closure of the school, the principal asked the community what they wanted from the school, and was surprised to discover it didn’t have anything to do with math or reading, but with things similar to the traits listed in the Seven Habits. She began implementing those traits in the classroom, and soon had a school with a waiting list to get in.
“It’s not a program, but a process,” said Tyus, “designed to help teachers develop leadership skills in their students, help students discover their unique strengths, give all students an opportunity to shine—to become leaders, and to help infuse the language of the Seven Habits into all curriculum.”
“In the past, there weren’t many leadership roles, which got people thinking about the scarcity of leadership. The Leader in Me presents opportunities for leadership to become about the process of your life rather than being a boss over someone. We want everyone to shine,” said Tyus, adding that at first it could cause some resistance among some of the students “used to getting all the attention,” but the shift in thinking would occur when the kids realized “there is enough awesome out there for every kid.”
“Someone else shining in a situation doesn’t make the next person less,” said Tyus. “This is what we are working on with 11-14 year olds. Everyone has gifts and the opportunity to give back.”
Tyus said the Leader in Me also helped train kids for a competitive job market.
“Boeing engineers said colleges are not preparing kids to be our employees,” said Tyus. “They don’t know how to work together or communicate with other cultures. They are competitive instead of being team players,” said Tyus, adding that it was never too late to start learning the principles taught in The Seven Habits. “Parents and business leaders want kids to learn goal setting, organization, time management, planning, teamwork, conflict management, creativity, analytical skills, to be able to have fun, the desire to learn, and good health and hygiene.”
Thayer said middle schoolers all received manuals laying out the Seven Habits. The first three are about private victories, and three through six are about relationships, or public victories.
- Be Proactive. Be in charge of you, and make sure you have enough time and space to organize your thoughts.
- Begin with the end in mind. Many people, especially middle schoolers, like to live in the moment. Plan ahead and set goals, and think about how you want something to turn out before getting started on it. Think about how you can contribute to your school developing a mission statement.
- Put First Things First. Get homework done and done right, then chores and dinner and then free time; not vice versa.
“We do what we gotta do on the front 40 so we can play on the back 40,” said Thayer, quoting his father.
- Think Win-Win. As a team, understand that you have an idea, and your teammate might have another one. Work on finding a middle ground that is a win for both.
- Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. It’s better to listen first and talk second. Seek to understand what someone is telling you so they can feel heard, validated and understood.
- Synergize. Synergy is achieved when two or more people work together to create a better solution that either would have thought of, or been able to accomplish, alone.
“A tree grows because of strong roots, and the public victories won’t be good unless you start with the personal ones first,” said Thayer.
- Sharpen the Saw. This means having balance in your life, and taking time to revitalize your body, brain, heart and soul.
“We want kids to be re-energized in mind, body, thoughts and social/emotional areas,” said Thayer.
“I thought this was a weird habit, until I researched where it came from,” said Tyus. “A guy was cutting down a big tree limb with a nasty, worn-out saw. He was sawing like crazy, sweating and getting nowhere. A friend comes by and says, ‘Sharpen your saw,’ but he says he can’t because he’s too busy cutting wood. The moral is, if you take the time to take care of you, your work gets done faster.”
Thayer said the challenge was to get kids to implement and work the seven habits, both in school and at home.
Tyus said the reverse took place in his home. He told the story of his son, now a teacher himself, who had studied the Seven Habits in a leadership class years ago.
“I didn’t know what he was reading, but he sat us down one day and talked about his goal; how he had accomplished everything he needed to do already—chores and homework, so could he take the car to Wenatchee? We came up we a solution, and off he goes. But before he left, he showed us the book and said, ‘Hey, this stuff works!’” Tyus recalled with a laugh.
Tyus said the process of implementing the Seven Habits would include parent and community trainings, after staff members became certified trainers. The school plans to have another parent night in December with students presenting some of the information, and to have a training session for parents in the spring.
The Elementary School is making use of Covey’s Seven Habits of Happy Kids.
“Our school is using ‘The Leader in Me’ program as an introduction to personal leadership,” said Principal Jeremy Clark. “All students have the capacity to lead in their own lives, and affect those around them by making positive choices. ‘The Leader in Me’ provides students with activities to help them learn practical character and life skills that will lead to those positive choices. Written to appeal to their age level, students are presented with fun activities designed to get them thinking.”
Parens can find ideas to use at home for reinforcing a child’s learning and to involve the family in a fun, interactive way can turn to “The Parent’s Place” at www.TheLeaderInMe.org.
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