Walking down the halls of Jack Elementary School, it is clear that leadership is a priority.
It's an emphasis on leadership grounded in the Leader in Me, a transformational model designed to build qualities in students that can lead to success for a lifetime.
“It's putting the responsibility back on the students with our guidance,” Principal Shauna Hittle said. “Instead of doing it because my teacher said so, I'm doing it for me.”
Based on Stephen Covey's “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the Leader in Me is designed to transform a school at its core so that academic achievement improves, discipline problems decrease and teacher and parent engagement goes up, according to its website.
Teachers are trained first. Students then hear the “7 Habits” language in their classrooms and work on them in their own lives. Finally, parents are brought into the equation.
The idea for bringing the program to Jack came about when fourth-grade teacher Kim Hill read the book, “The Leader in Me” several years ago.
The book, also written by Covey, documents the odel pioneered by several schools across the country along with the outcomes, according to a website about it.
Ms. Hittle said Covey had a quote that reads, “You have one chance to prepare a student for a future you can't predict. So what are you going to do with that one chance?”
The leadership at Jack decided they wanted to build leaders of tomorrow and that is now the mission of the campus.
But students also get to use them as they work through the habits in their own life.
Students from kindergarten through fifth grade keep binders documenting their mission statements, goals and progress academically and in other aspects of their lives.
All students have a classroom job they are responsible for carrying out.
For example, as visitors enter Kim Hill's fourth-grade classroom, two students come to the door to greet them.
Their job in the class is to be the greeter, so the teacher doesn't have to stop what she is doing, Ms. Hittle said.
Other examples of classroom jobs include meeting facilitator, pet caretaker, café leader, chair captain and shoe-tying expert.
Third- through fifth-graders apply for campuswide jobs called Patriot professions.
Patriot professions include poster makers, student ambassadors and environmental crew, among others. In addition, students plan and lead on-campus programs.
Ms. Hittle said through these jobs, students take ownership of the campus and realize they can contribute to it.
“It's all about, 'We don't do for kids what kids can do for themselves,'” Ms. Hittle said. “We just support them.”
Ms. Hill said students are learning how to think about the future and plan for it by setting goals. Kindergarten students already know the years for their high school and college graduations.
SEEING THE EFFECTS
Remona Stanford is the parent of a Jack first-grader and a facilitator for Leader in Me parent seminars at the school.
She said what she has learned from the model is affecting her behavior at home as well as that of her children, even a son who doesn't attend Jack.
Ms. Stanford said she doesn't yell as much anymore, and she sat down with her husband and kids and had them all write mission statements.
She said it made her proud to know that even though her son hasn't experienced the Leader in Me program at school, what he is hearing at home is affecting him.
“Once the change comes in me, I can change my home,” she said.
Jack parent Marc Salitore became familiar with “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” while in business school at Texas Tech University.
He said he thought it was transformational then and introduced his children to it.
The model really sets students up to excel academically and in their relationships, he said.
“It has taken our elementary school environment and expanded beyond just teaching academics and testing into teaching methods to achieve success as students and citizens,” he said. “These are habits (that) if these kids learn this at this level that will serve them throughout the rest of their lives.”