'Habits' put Delaware students on leadership track
Some Delaware elementary school principals think it's never too early to groom students into becoming leaders.
Last year, Carlisle Elementary School teachers started implementing the "seven habits," part of the Leader in Me training book, into the school's classrooms and activities.
The goal of the habits is to increase student achievement and help them take on more responsibility in their classrooms -- and in the future.
The seven habits are: be proactive; begin with the end in mind; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to listen and then be understood; synergize; and sharpen the saw.
Carlisle Principal Steve Andrews said the staff read Leader in Me and received funding through the Delaware Foundation to implement the program.
They painted various leadership quotes on the walls of the school and incorporated different habits into the classroom and lunchroom, and teachers take part in a reader's theater to illustrate the habits and how to apply them.
"A lot of these things we already did, but it's really helped the kids understand more about leadership," Andrews said.
For example, teachers remind students to keep their hands to themselves and be quiet so they can work together.
They also teach second-graders how to look someone in the eye, say, "Welcome to Carlisle," and introduce themselves to an adult.
"One of our students with multiple disabilities learned this last year and when he came back to school this year, he looked his new teacher in the eye and introduced himself," Andrews said. "I think this speaks volumes that he was able to recall and retain that information due to us doing it with them repeatedly."
Andrews said he has heard comments from parents about their students at home.
"I had a parent tell me, 'I can't believe the change in my child at home. I don't even have to ask them to clean up their room,'" he said.
Andrews said the habits lend themselves to enabling each school to apply them in the way that works best for that school.
"Each year will evolve and change to fit the needs of the students, and each school will be different," he said.
Smith and Woodward elementary schools are just beginning the Leader in Me training and implementation this year.
Woodward Principal Matt Keller said his school's staff underwent training and is beginning to implement the habits into the schools' goals, which are to teach students to be good citizens and lifelong learners.
Some of the ways they are incorporating the habits is by having teachers center their daily writing prompts around the goals for the day. Students keep track of their progress in a binder, and teachers encourage them to come up with ideas to improve recess and meals in the cafeteria.
Keller said the students already are taking initiative.
"I had a group of fourth-grade students tell me they wanted to help the first-grade students during lunch because they were struggling with their lunch trays," he said. "They came in the next day and helped them out and it went marvelously."
All the habits are posted in the classrooms and around the building.
There are many more ideas the schools can implement, such as having older students meet with younger students and developing clubs that improve the schools' culture, Keller said.
"We are hoping these habits they are learning will go beyond school and impact how they perform at home and in the community," he said.