Hazelwood students are becoming leaders

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Dec 13, 2013
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Hazelwood Elementary School kindergartners Jayden Baleu, Piper Bumgardner, Mya Cleary, Josie Ostendorff and Emily Sanders sing along to the school's 7 habits song. The song is a part of the schools Leader in Me program.

Accountability and responsibility are just a couple of the traits that teachers at Hazelwood Elementary are seeing their students exhibit after participating in the Leader in Me program for several months.

The Leader in Me is a transformation program that was implemented this past fall at Hazelwood Elementary. Through the program, students learn new principles that are designed to encourage them to value their gifts and the gifts of others and to use those gifts to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

The Leader in Me is based on a book called “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, which encourages the development of seven habits that will benefit adults, or in this case children, throughout their lives.

For the past four months, Hazelwood students have been learning and memorizing the steps of the program. The steps are: 1. Be proactive, 2. Begin with the end in mind, 3. Put first things first, 4. Think win-win, 5. Seek first to understand then to be understood, 6. Synergize and 7. Sharpen the saw.

These steps teach children everything from taking personal responsibility and setting goals to learning to be considerate of others, teamwork and even living a healthy lifestyle.

Susan Savage, principal at Hazelwood Elementary School, said the steps already had impacted the children’s behavior — both at home and in class.

Savage referenced one father who was pleased that his son was being more responsible.

“A parent came in and said when he called his son last night to do something, he told his dad that he had finished already — that he was ‘putting first things first,’” Savage said, adding that she also had received several emails about the students modeling the seven habits. “Students are doing things at home. They’re doing it for their parents.”

For 13 years, the program has been transforming elementary schools into more academic, effective learning environments. Schools all over the country have implemented the program, and have reported seeing an increase in student test scores and students’ self-confidence as well as a decrease in discipline problems.

Savage also referenced an email she received from a parent praising her daughter who no longer had to be told to feed her cat.

“One day she came in and said, ‘I’m going to be proactive and go ahead and feed the cat now, and she had not done that before,’” Savage said.

All students at Hazelwood will continue to participate in the Leader in Me program throughout the years, Savage said. In order to incorporate the program into the curriculum permanently, the teachers all are developing a common core language to help students internalize the program, no matter what grade they’re in.

As part of a school makeover this summer, inspirational quotes were painted on the walls of the school as well as a painted mural of a tree listing the seven basic principles of the program. The paintings serve as a daily reminder to the students to follow the seven habits.

“They notice the quotes on the walls and they remind them of the leadership concept we are trying to instill in them,” Savage said. “We’re helping them to be more responsible for learning and taking responsibility for their actions. This results in them being better students.”

About every two weeks, the entire student body at Hazelwood gathers in the gym for a Leader in Me celebration. During the celebration, a selected grade level shares a skit or does a performance relating to the habit the school had been studying the past couple weeks. Currently, Hazelwood students have memorized five of the habits, and will be focusing on the last two this month.

Hazelwood students also have learned a song in music class that they sing during the bi-monthly celebrations.

As another incentive to be successful leaders, every week, one student is chosen as the student leader of the week and has his or her picture displayed on the student leader wall.

“They’re nominated by a staff member who has seen them exhibit one of the seven habits,” Savage said. “And they’re also recognized on our morning news.”

For information on The Leader in Me program, visit www.theleaderinme.org.