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For Greater Student Achievement Teach Students to be Leaders

Greater achievement comes when we focus on students, not on the curricula itself.

Stephen Covey
, the internationally respected leadership authority, is best known for his phenomenal book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” But the co-founder and vice-chairman of the FranklinCovey Co. has also been recognized as one of Time magazine’s twenty-five most influential Americans based on his impact in a variety of fields including education.

coveyCovey’s seven principles are universal, with the first two leading the way for any walk of life: a) take personal responsibility and initiative and b) be clear about what’s important to you and setting goals. In this writer’s eyes, these two elements represent the foundation for being successful, whether it is training for the world of pro sports or inspiring a classroom full of students.

Some educators may be surprised to learn that these seven habits once served to revitalize A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Principal Muriel Summers transformed the poor performing school with low teacher morale into a model program by applying Covey’s seven principles to the school setting.

Implementing an inside-out approach, i.e. having the teachers and administrators learning, living and modeling the principles themselves first, Summers led a process that resulted in the principles of effectiveness being woven into every subject — math, science, social studies, art, etc.

Encouraged to Be Leaders

Dubbed The Leader in Me process, the seven habits educational approach has now been adopted in over 200 schools around the world. While every school is unique in its own way, these 200 all share a common mission statement: “Developing Leaders, One Child at a Time.”

book-preorderCovey notes that many folks question the fundamental notion that every child can be a leader. But in the ‘Knowledge Worker Age,’ he insists that leadership is a life choice as opposed to a position that is assigned to people.

The Leader in Me process is not about the small number of people who will end up in significant leadership positions. Instead, it is about leading one’s life and being a leader among one’s friends and one’s family.

Covey considers this emphasis on leadership as the ‘highest of all the arts,’ and that by communicating to people their worth and potential they ultimately come to see it in themselves.

A Program Worth Considering

Perhaps it is Covey’s humility that makes his work so enticing. The man behind the seven principles does not take credit for what he calls the ‘set of universal, timeless, self-evident principles common to every enduring, prospering society, organization, or family.’ Instead, according to his own assessment, he ‘simply organized, sequenced and articulated them.’

But for this educator, it is the fact that Covey reverts to the very fundamentals of education in the Leader in Me program that is significant. The focus on students and not curricula, on character and not subjects, and most importantly, ‘doing the right thing even when no one is looking’ is one every school should take notice of.

Indeed, education has been and will always be about relationships. Covey’s focus on developing leadership features this fundamental prominently.

Educators interested in greater student achievement would do well to review the principles featured in The Leader in Me. Though a complete school approach would no doubt produce greater impact, teacher’s who implement these principles into their classroom will find students taking greater ownership in their learning.

And such ownership is at the heart of greater levels of student achievement.


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