Learn to Lead – Towne Post Network
Local Elementary Students and Educators Succeed with Leader in Me Program
Screenwriter / Annette Skaggs
Teachers have myriad hopes and expectations for their students. Perhaps they focus on students acquiring the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic, or they place more emphasis on social and/or analytical skills. Whatever sets of skills a teacher strives to impart, there is a rather universal principle throughout the field of education – to provide the student with knowledge and training that will lay the foundation for success in this student in his life and career.
Over the years, many programs have been developed to assist teachers in their quest to provide the foundational context for their students’ success, such as the use of leadership programs. One such program has been successful in our area – Stephen Covey’s Leader in Me program.
Derived from Covey’s award-winning book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, the Leader in Me program takes some of the principles and ideas from the book and creates a structured model for leadership learning and development.
The Leader in Me program focuses on five specific paradigms of student development and success – everyone can be a leader (not just a few), everyone is genius (not just a few), the change begins with me (as opposed to the system that needs to change), educators empower students to direct their own learning (as opposed to educators controlling and directing student learning), and development of the whole person (not to not focusing solely on academic achievement).
Using these ideas and paradigms, teachers and students develop a new way of learning both inside and outside of the classroom, which leads to whole development and appreciation of learning. .
Luckily for our region, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) leaders have paved the way for some schools and leaders to use this tool, such as Middletown Elementary and Principal Danielle Doelling.
When Doelling came on board as principal of Middletown Elementary about three years ago, her more than 20 years in education, which ran the gamut from teacher to administrator, didn’t have it all. fully prepared for one of the most difficult changes in the country in education, and how we teach the young people of our nation and the world – the pandemic.
After years and years of wandering the halls, with children sitting at their desks or tables, classrooms have turned into dining tables or living rooms, teachers teaching via the Internet through teaching non-traditional. Just as students have adapted, our teachers and administrators like Doelling have adapted.
Although she had to take a break from using the Leader in Me program because of this new challenge of non-traditional teaching, Doelling knew that her teachers and administration could still apply the Leader in Me program, once that classroom learning could resume. In the meantime, Doelling had certainly positioned Middletown Elementary with a culture and climate that invites teachers, students, and even parents as a place of learning that embraces leadership development and cooperation. Now that classrooms are buzzing with noise again, the Leader in Me program is in full force.
While Middletown includes kindergarten through fifth grade, the Leader in Me program is geared toward third through fifth grade. Instructors hope that students will begin to develop what are considered soft skills, which are included in the JCPS Success Skills Backpack, which are: 1) to be a prepared and resilient learner, 2) to be a globally and culturally competent citizen, 3) be an emerging innovator, 4) be an effective communicator, and 5) be a productive collaborator.
By joining the Leader in Me program, Doelling has found that her students do quite well in meeting the goals of both programs.
As one can imagine, a teacher or administrator cannot simply walk into a classroom and start using the Leader in Me program. .
“There are three different parts to the training that we then use to teach our students – Core 1, Core 2 and Core 3,” says Doelling. “In Core 1, we seek to understand our students’ habits as well as dive into the curriculum. Our teachers teach different skill sets or habits for success each month, and we track student improvement. In Core 2 , we focus on our students’ goal setting for leadership and portfolio development, much like the JCPS backpack.It is also in this core that we will impart to our students the establishment of “goals, which we affectionately call WIGS – wild and important goals. Under Goal 3, we now help our students develop and discover their strength as leaders and students.”
“While Leader in Me was developed using the ‘7 Habits’, there is an eighth that we use – a focus on finding strength in each student,” she continues. “Among those strengths is the ability to do for others, so part of our dynamic is service learning. Our students have been involved in many programs and activities which include helping some of our students with special needs, as well as collecting duffel bags and backpacks for the children to use at the Maison des Innocents. Our students are also involved in anti-bullying campaigns and an environmental club.
Doelling shares that Middletown Elementary’s motto is “Discover the brilliance in every child.”
“I certainly share with my staff that we need to strive to achieve this, and I believe the leader in me is a great foundation for achieving this,” says Doelling. “Not only do we develop the strength and desire to learn from our students, but we ourselves learn from them. As educators, we have a responsibility to our students and to their parents as well, that we focus on an education that will serve as the foundation for their continued success in life.
Doelling says her teachers take ongoing courses for the Leader in Me program.
“In fact, we’ll do a Basic 2 course over the summer, which usually takes a day and a half of training, followed by occasional follow-up sessions,” she says. “There are also other courses that our staff can take part in, which take three to four days of training and usually take place during the summer months. Often Leader in Me coaches come to us or provide virtual access when we have these meetings and training sessions because it is the most efficient and cost effective. The program is not cheap at all, which may partly explain why it is not implemented in all schools. »
Doelling says only a handful of schools, including Middletown Elementary and Locust Grove Elementary — which is considered a flagship school, a term program officials use to distinguish highly successful use of the program — are currently using the program.
“Right now, we’re having a goal setting rate of about 75-80%,” she says. “For the 2022-2023 academic year, I would really like to see us 100%. I also want us to maintain teaching habits and use them as they were meant to be, as a tool for success. In two years, I would love to see full implementation of all of our goals. I’m happy to say that the Lighthouse Group – part of the Leader in Me trainers – will be able to help train 10 additional educators, including those in our special needs department and our assistant director.