Guest blog by Rebecca Stephens, Principal at Martha Reid Leadership Academy in Mansfield ISD.
Today’s global market requires a fundamental change in how people communicate, learn, and assimilate new ideas, and it is time to break the traditional model of education and prepare students to accomplish the impossible. College and career readiness are hot topics among federal and state governments in regards to preparing students for the 21st century; however, let’s stop for a moment and rewind the clock. I know it is important for students to be college or career ready, but how about life ready.
How to prepare students to be life ready is stumping educators. For the most part, educators are problem solvers. Working in education, teachers and staff members have to be ready and armed with ideas, strategies, and ways to help our students be successful. Conference room conversations quickly become strategic planning sessions on how to help our students stay motivated and be resilient.
These were our hot topics: student motivation and resiliency. First, as a staff, we had to define what we meant by student motivation and resiliency, and what did this look like in a school setting. So, instead of just talking about these hot topics, I decided to take action. I went looking for a solution to the problem; however, solutions are hard to find in regards to developing students to be intrinsically motivated and to have strong “grit”. I wanted to know how to jump-start our students to take ownership of their own learning.
After researching ideas and visiting schools, I found that other administrators and educators had the same concerns. After many conversations with other principals, counselors, and my staff and faculty, we decided it was time to add a leadership component to our school. We needed to teach children to be responsible for their own learning, cope with disappointment and not be afraid to fail, set goals, develop conflict resolution skills, appreciate diversity and have empathy, take initiative to make a difference in school, at home, and in their community. We were ready to make a paradigm shift in our school culture and climate.
Through the research process, I found a model that guided educators to prepare students to become life-long leaders while teaching them how to take ownership of their own learning and goals. As a staff, we read the book, The Leader in Me, by Stephen Covey, Sean Covey, Muriel Summers, and David Hatch. This book provided insights on how we can transform our school and establish practices that develop the whole child. After reading the book, I decided to take a deeper look into The Leader in Me model. The model was built around The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey: 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. This model became the blueprint for what we needed for our school. We implemented The Leader in Me model this year and already we have seen a change in our students.
The Leader in Me instructional model guides our students to become life-long leaders through the use of the 7 Habits in alignment with The Leader in Me curriculum. Students utilize the habits of highly effective people to craft their vision for being successful at school and at home. The master schedule changed for K-4 students based upon the twenty-five minute Leader in Me period. Teachers teach the 7 Habits daily, utilizing the lessons from the program curriculum guide. Therefore, each six weeks the 7 Habits, along with 21st century skills are embedded in the academic environment. Students identify and set their own personal academic goals. Using a goal-setting criteria, data collection, and data analysis practices, children track their progress and growth over the course of the school year. Students also learn social etiquette and develop communication and presentation skills through student-led conferences, community service projects, and leadership opportunities.
Our goal is to guide students to an authentic discovery of how to be intrinsically motivated and resilient. By fostering a climate and culture of principle centered and personal leadership, and empowering our students to take ownership of their own learning, we are preparing our students to become productive citizens.