The Leader in MeHazelwood Elementary to cultivate student leaders
“Through these doors walk great leaders and scholars.” Those are the first words Hazelwood Elementary students will see when they walk through the front doors of school on Aug. 21.
The words, which were painted above the front office this summer, is just part of a school makeover that is implementing the “Leader in Me” program not only onto the walls, but into the classrooms of Hazelwood Elementary.
Walking to class, students will notice several more inspirational quotes painted on the walls as well as a painted mural of a tree listing the seven basic principals of the program. The principles are designed to encourage children to value their gifts and the gifts of others and to use those gifts to achieve the goals they set for themselves.
The program 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.
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.
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.
Susan Savage, principal of Hazelwood Elementary, said she had been planning to implement The Leader in Me since last year.
“Our goal is to create leaders and learners,” Savage said. “Research has shown that when you create leaders who reach their full potential, it pays off academically, socially and emotionally. We see it changing the whole culture of our school.”
This summer all of the Hazelwood teachers volunteered to spend three days in training for the Leader in Me program.
Hazelwood teachers participated in two days of training in June and just completed their final day of training last week.
“We can’t teach it until we’ve been trained and we internalize it and start living it,” Savage said. “That’s why we did the training over the summer.”
Many teachers are excited about the opportunity to start a new way of teaching and guiding their students.
Becky Pope, a Title 1 reading teacher at Hazelwood Elementary, said the Leader in Me program would be a great way to unite all the teachers.
“We all have worked out a schedule so that everyone in the school is working on the same habit at the same time,” Pope said. “I’ll know what habit the students are working on, and I’ll be able to reinforce that. We’ll all be supportive of each other.”
Susanne Cauley, who teaches third grade, said she thought the training was beneficial for both personal and educational use.
“This might be a missing piece for some students,” Cauley said. “Some of these habits will become lifelong skills. They can help them in third grade, but also as an adult.
Fourth-grade teacher Stephanie Ott said she was impressed after taking the training.
“It makes you think about things you otherwise would not have thought of without the training,” she said.
Aside from painting visual inspiration on the walls of school, Hazelwood Elementary is ensuring that students have all the resources they need to become true student leaders.
Savage said all students would have “Plott hound time” in the mornings to discuss the seven habits during class. The Plott hound is North Carolina's official state dog and originated in Hyatt Creek, where Hazelwood School is located.
In addition, all Hazelwood teachers — including art, physical education and music teachers — will be stressing the seven habits in their curriculum.
“All of our resources will help implement and integrate the program into part of our school day in all of the sub areas so it’s not an isolated thing,” Savage said. “Everyone’s been trained with common school knowledge.”
Savage said one idea the program would stress to students was goal setting. She said students would be receiving leader notebooks they will use to keep track of their goals.
“They can learn to set goals of every kind,” Savage said. “And they’ll have the same notebook that will follow them throughout the years.”
Pope said she expected her reading classes to become more focused on recognizing the Leader in Me traits.
“In class, as we read literature, we might be talking about the habits the characters exhibit,” Pope said. “Once we initially teach all of the habits, it will be integrating into our ways of thinking or doing — whether it’s in a classroom or on a school bus.”
Aside from having her students study habits and setting goals, Cauley said she planned to use the Leader in Me program to encourage them to make better choices.
“I hope to really stress to them how important the choices they make are,” Cauley said. “I hope to just empower them so they realize they have some ownership in their learning.”
Ott said she was aiming to teach her fourth-graders more responsibility in class. She said she was planning to assign each student a classroom role, including a class greeter and a student in charge of fixing the computer.
“I just want my kids to have a more active role in class,” Ott said. “It’s like a cooperative grouping. It will give them a lot of opportunities to interaction and learn to communicate with adults and each other.”
Savage said she expected the program to have a positive impact on every student.
“The best thing about it is that it’s individualized in each class, but we can still work together and all share a common language,” Savage said. “The students are always going to remember these seven habits.”
Teachers will be kickstarting the new program on the first day of school, which is Aug. 21.
For information on The Leader in Me program, visit www.theleaderinme.org.