The fact that children are natural born leaders is perhaps more elusive in our culture that encourages youth to be power consumers, and is eerily similar to M.T. Anderson’s novel, FEED, featured in the introduction to this 2013 Edition of Family Business Quarterly.
As a mom of two grown sons, I can say that there is definitely more “catering to kids as consumers” going on today and when I was raising my sons, than in my own childhood. Raised in the 1960s and 1970s, television and radio were the dominant “feeds” streaming commercials and advertisements for the “must-haves” of our time.
Today, children have commercial agendas aimed at them through multiple media, fully integrated into their social networks. Schools are increasingly dependent upon corporate sponsors to keep programs going, and “big data banks” profile not only our preferences, but our identity as it is expressed in our social networks, biometric images and digital footprints.
There is tremendous pressure on parents to equip children with the devices to consume more information and products, from wireless devices to debit cards. And parents are chauffeuring children to activities and events designed and run by adults (sports and extra curricular activities). Children are busy performing and consuming, but are they really learning to lead their own lives?
The ability to think for yourself is more important than ever because “the feed” is more dominant than ever.
The Leader In Me
A most encouraging experience in this regard comes from the school principals, administrators and teachers who are elated that elementary school children have so quickly internalized Steve Covey’s seven habits and put them into action through a program called “The Leader in Me”.
Last month, North County Elementary in Antelope, and Twin Oaks Elementary in Rocklin, celebrated “Leadership Day” with a school community event to recognize the leadership qualities in the students, which have been nurtured and demonstrated throughout the past year.
The number one challenge for educators, as I have learned from many conversations over the past decade, is that students are not prepared to think correctly about their own response to problems, issues and opportunities inside and outside the classroom.
Coming to school to learn requires classroom discipline, which generations ago was taught at home. Lifestyles today are geared around hectic schedules and in many cases, multiple homes with blended families, and anxiety rooted in great financial uncertainty.
Against this backdrop, The Leader In Me prepares children to accept responsibility for being an asset to their community in the classroom, at home, and in the community at large. Some of the leadership habits include being proactive because you are in charge of yourself; starting with the end in mind so have a plan; think win/win; and synergize to engage all participants.
by David Pascalau, fourth grade at North County Elementary:
- The first habit is Be Proactive. I use this at school whenever I get frustrated and mad. I think of calming down. I stop and think, “Am I wasting precious time?“
- The second habit is Begin With the End in Mind. How I do this is, I organize my schedule.
- Third habit is Put First Things First. I do the most important things first, like homework and then I go play.
- Fourth habit- Think Win-Win. I use this to make sure we play fair.
- The fifth habit is Seek first to understand, then to be understood. I listen to the opinions of other people, then I say mine.
- The sixth habit is Synergize. I encourage my team members to participate.
- Seventh habit- Sharpen the saw. When I am done with all of my chores, I take a fun break.
This past year I have followed both North County Elementary and Twin Oaks Elementary in their implementation of this leadership training. My interest in their experience centers on the need to develop good citizenship thinking to overcome the adversity that families face today; be a safe user of texting and social media; and how this relates to life at home.
My first campus tour was last fall at North County Elementary, and I was impressed with the comportment of the students. Each classroom had a greeter, who came to the door and welcomed me and the principal. Even with the interruption of having a visitor the students maintained their focus.
Kathy Lord is the Principal at North Country. “We decided we could make our campus a better learning culture,” she said. Franklin-Covey Foundation provided a grant to bring the “The Leader In Me” program to North Country Elementary which started in the fall of 2012.
As a result of the program, students take on day-to-day management roles from making daily announcements, to lunch room operations, technology center maintenance and lost and found. Students are encouraged to identify problems and needs and propose solutions and implement them. There is a sense of ownership among the student body that promotes a peaceful and well energized learning environment.
Since the implementation of The Leader In Me, third grade teachers, Erica Olmstead and Penny Rittenhouse, have observed significant behavior shifts among the student body. “This program gives kids the ability to talk and reason their issues out on their own,” Olmstead said. “I spend less time dealing with discipline issues, and more quality time for education.” In Rittenhouse’s classroom the students were practicing habit number two, begin with the end in mind, to write and rehearse screen plays.
Fifth grade teacher, Lura Anderson, is very encouraged by the program. “This is what we need to shift responsibility of learning to the kids,” she said, noting that there are fewer issues with tardiness and that the students are just more proactive about getting their assignments and work done.
Fifth grader, Desmond*, was a campus tour guide who walked one of the groups from classroom to classroom. “How am I doing?” he asked the group, wanting to know if he was speaking loud enough, or do anything to make the experience better. When asked what his favorite Leader In Me habit was, he replied, “Think win/win!” with enthusiasm and certainty.
Parents observe the difference.
Yvette McKnight of Antelope has a fifth grader, Emma, attending North County Elementary. “The seven habits, like first things first, help her to be more calm and organized,” McKnight said. “When she feels like she has a plan, she doesn’t panic and this way it is not me telling her what to do. I love this school and what they have done.” McKnight’s daughter made the Principal’s list and honor roll this year, which she attributes to the seven habits.
Brad Arison is the parent of a kindergartener at Twin Oaks Elementary. “I recognized it right away because I am in sales and I have read the Seven Habits book,” he said. “This program is giving the kids a huge advantage.”
The most profound observation is that the teachers and parents are pleasantly surprised by the capacity of students to be the leader. “The children are capable of so much more than we have given them credit in the past,” said Sara James, Principal of Twin Oaks Elementary. “The students never cease to amaze me. It is a very humbling experience to realize how little I expected of children, and how much they were willing to give of themselves all along.”
Attending the Twin Oaks “Leadership Day” celebration is the community support crew from the Panda Corporation, which provided The Leader In Me grant for this and other schools in the area including Junction Elementary in Roseville and Lincoln Crossing Elementary in Lincoln.
Joe Panda is the Area Manager for the Panda Restaurant Group, Inc.
“We invest in this leadership program because there is a big difference for the kids. The behavior is different,” Panda said. “They show up like leaders.”
(* Desmond’s last name was withheld for privacy.)
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Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays.