HONOR ROLLS

Lessons in leadership: Local schools to be featured in symposium

Published Saturday, January 28, 2017
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Taking the Initiative

TAKING THE INITIATIVE – Prairie View Elementary second-grader Scarlett McCartney greets visitors to her classroom at the school’s The Leader in Me rehearsal earlier this week. Submitted photo

Two Northwest ISD elementary campuses will be featured in the 2017 Dallas Leader in Me Symposium Thursday. The national program prepares students for the 21st century professional world by teaching them to prioritize hard work and believe in themselves.

The symposium will give school officials from around the Metroplex a chance to see how students and staff at Prairie View and Seven Hills Elementaries are implementing the program in its first year.

Prairie View Principal Yolanda Wallace said students have already been bringing home new attitudes.

“I think parents see it,” Wallace said. “We got formal feedback [from the rehearsal], but some of the practical things like, ‘I don’t have to tell my kids to do the chores anymore. They do it then go outside.’ It’s just independence from the kids. [The parents] have been seeing it and telling us about it all year.”

Seven steps make up The Leader in Me’s core curriculum:

  • Be proactive.
  • Begin with the end in mind.
  • Put first things first.
  • Think win-win.
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood,
  • Synergize.
  • Sharpen the saw.

Wallace and Seven Hills Elementary Principal Kim Blackburn both said their staffs have gone over the content multiple times in order to make sure they’re committed to the ideas before bringing them to the kids.

“That has turned into this culture of shared leadership,” she said. “Teachers who were kind of introverts have taken things over. Kids see that. Now they’re coming and saying, ‘Mrs. Wallace, we want to start a club. I want to be in charge of this project. They were doing it before, but now it’s more widespread. Now we’re reaching kids that maybe didn’t feel like they had a voice and now they do. This year the study is about how we’re all leaders.”

Blackburn said that initiative has translated directly to the students in her classrooms through the concept of classroom leadership roles. One student, appointed classroom greeter, shakes the hand of every student entering the classroom each morning.

“Part of the seven habits include firm handshakes and eye contact,” Blackburn said. “We call it catching germs at the door. Sometimes kids have a bad morning. That 20 seconds of shaking their hand and asking them how they’re doing kind of erases all of that and lets them start on a good note.”

Those newfound personal skills even come into play when students have disagreements, she added. Two students who recently argued were able to deescalate the situation by working together to resolve their differences.

“In the past, it may have escalated to where you’re having to get the counselors involved to help them problem-solve, but with the language they have and the seven habits and figure out, ‘OK, what is it that I want and what is it that you want and how can we work together to get what we both want.’

“These are situations where the students were confident enough to advocate for themselves with their peer,” Blackburn said. “A lot of times they’re OK with coming to an adult, but we’re seeing that shift to students being confident to self-advocate to their peers and solve problems themselves, which is ultimately what we want to create successful humans.”

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