PITTSBURG —  Meadowlark Elementary teachers are learning ways to instill leadership skills through “Leader in Me.”

The school calls this a “thought process” or “a way of life,” it is not a program nor a curriculum.

A Lighthouse team made up of about seven teachers are leading the school in the four-year plan.

“We feel like it’s something our school needs,” Meadowlark Elementary School Principal Becky Bedene said. “We recognize we have a lot of kiddos that don’t have these skills and we feel responsible to help them have them.”

Bedene said it will help them beyond middle school and high school and they will be more likely to have the skills employers need.

She said everyone is on board at different levels. She said as they learn about Leader in Me and start seeing the results in other classrooms they may begin implementing it in their own class too.

The school is at the beginning process, informing and training the teachers. They began with a book study of, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey and they went on symposiums where they visited other schools in Kansas and St. Louis, Missouri and other locations, which currently implement Leader in Me.

“Seeing it in action in other schools, we were watching [students] take ownership, and they were excited about being there and learning,” Fifth Grade Teacher Sydney Zortz said.

One teacher, First Grade Teacher Robin Craig, has taught in two other schools who use Leader in Me and she uses the book “7 Habits of Happy Kids” to talk about what those habits are in her class.

“I have a class chat with motions to help them learn what the habits are,” Craig said. “We use the language throughout the year in the classroom.”

These habits are a component in the Franklin Covey Education: Leader in Me “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” which are: Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, Synergize and Sharpen The Saw.

Franklin Covey also has programs for organizations and businesses to instill these leadership skills in adults.  

The teachers who are utilizing these phrases in the classroom already do it several different ways and each unique to their own classes needs. This may be through various activities, hand movements which go along with the phrase, to journaling — along with emphasising these concepts in the daily announcements over the intercom.

Third Grade Teacher Carrie Lance said she is not worried about her students understanding the phrases and concepts. She said by day three she noticed more excitement for learning in the classroom.

“They were excited,” Lance said. “They understood it, by a week’s time it changed their outlook on things.”

Counselor Christy Perez agreed.

“If you stress the good in anybody it will help them … if you instill positives into students they will perform better,” she said.  

Lance said English as a Second Language students — have paraeducators who help with the language barrier in the phrases, including idioms.  

Kindergarten Teacher Meredith Jameson said some schools which implement Leader in Me helped ESOL students become leaders, such as being a translator of their native language at school.

She said at Meadowlark, paras work hand-in-hand with teachers and help students in every way they can.

By leadership, the teachers mean individual-based leadership, each student having their own goals and skill sets and helping them reach those goals and encouraging them to be a leader in their goal area.

“Leadership is different for every person,” Lance said. “Finding a strength in every person, if you can pull that out of someone than they can begin to learn.”

Perez agreed with Lance.

“Every student, no matter the background or behavior, they have a possibility to be a leader,” she said. “We just have to find what their strengths are.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.