Kids filled the auditorium at D.H. Stanton
Elementary School last Friday, singing and dancing – and not, it was obvious,
just because their teachers told them to sing and dance.
From pre-kindergarten on up, students were
singing the way only kids can sing: Heads tipped back, eyes wide, on the border
between a song and a shout.
And the lyrics were anything but shallow. The
songs that floated through the auditorium on Friday focused on proactivity, on
accountability, on positivity and leadership and success – and they opened a
window for visitors to see how things are changing at D.H. Stanton.
The Atlanta elementary school is one of
several in Georgia using “The Leader in Me,” an innovative model based on
Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” to build a culture
of excitement around leadership and responsibility. On Friday, students
showcased what they’d learned at a school-wide Leadership Rally attended by
parents, community members, State Representative Margaret Kaiser, and State
School Superintendent Dr. John Barge.
“We invited you here today to see how ‘The
Leader in Me’ has been slowly changing the culture of our school,” Dr. Clara
Taylor, the school’s principal, told guests. “This is a school where we’re
raising happy leaders – happy leaders for the 21st century.”
The seven habits of highly successful people,
pioneered by educator Stephen Covey in the late 1980s, are a set of
common-sense principles designed to develop leadership skills: 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.
On Friday, students described those
principles in the simple cadences of kids – words they can understand and
incorporate and blend into their lives, words that have been built into the
pattern of their school days. They’ve become a part of instruction at every
grade level, in every classroom.
D.H. Stanton is also a dual
immersion school, so if you make a visit, you may hear
kids talking about synergy and saw-sharpening in near-fluent Spanish. (In fact,
you’ll hear plenty of Spanish, even when students aren’t being instructed to
speak the language. On Friday, after one student said he was six years old, a
classmate whipped his head around and said, with sharp astonishment and with
the smoothly blended language of the almost-bilingual, “I thought you were cinco!”)
At Friday’s assembly, after providing a brief
summary of what a state superintendent does and before granting an interview to
a pair of intrepid first-grade reporters, Dr. Barge told students the seven
habits were exactly the type of skills they needed to be learning.
“It doesn’t matter what job you do when you
grow up,” he told them. “If you have leadership skills, you will be successful,
regardless of the path you decide to go.”