In Kathy Green's classroom at Summerville Elementary School, every child is a leader.
The students in her fourth-grade gifted and talented class take on a leadership role they have assigned themselves. From behavior monitor to timekeeper, each position makes them feel valued, Green said.
Stapled prominently on one of the classroom walls are the seven rules the class abides by to show leadership. The rules quote "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" from the best-selling book by Stephen Covey.
The habits aren't just posted in Green's classroom but in every room in the school, and reminders to be a leader are displayed on nearly every wall throughout the building.
Schoolwide from the students to the staff, Summerville Elementary has adopted the Arts of Leadership model, which is based on the book's seven habits. The school began implementing the model this school year, and it's the first school in the state to do so. Many at the school say they have seen a significant change in the school's culture.
"It really makes a difference in the classroom," Green said.
For one thing, she said the students are more respectful to each other. Also, throughout the school, the atmosphere is calmer and the morale happier, she said.
Green, a teacher with 30 years of experience with 25 of them at Summerville Elementary, said that the habits are especially important for the children to learn during their formative years.
"When they're developing these positive habits now, they're setting the pace for when they go to middle and high school," said Green, Dorchester District 2's 2010 Teacher of the Year.
The woman behind bringing the model to the school is Lori Dibble, who became principal at Summerville Elementary last school year. She was familiar with the leadership model from reading another of Covey's books, "The Leader in Me."
The book captures the story of how the model first started. In 1999 at A.B. Combs Elementary in Raleigh, the school decided on its own to apply the seven habits as part of its curriculum. After a year, the school reported a higher average of passing grades and a significant drop in discipline problems among other improvements. More than 300 schools across the country now use the model.
Dibble said it took about all of last year for her to spread the word throughout the community. But with the endorsement of the Greater Summerville Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce, it then took only five weeks to raise $30,000 from local businesses, civic groups, community members and even students to fund the model at the school.
"The support has been unanimous," Dibble said.
The school began training all its teachers in June. From the start of classes in August, the children progressively have been introduced to each habit and applying them in the everyday school culture.
In early September, a visit from Stephen Covey's son, Sean, also sparked interest from other schools around the state. Sean Covey, who has adapted the seven habits for teens and children, toured Summerville Elementary and later spoke at a luncheon hosted by the chamber's Leadership Dorchester class.
That crowd included superintendents and representatives from schools around the state. He told them that the key for the model to work is that it should be "ubiquitous" in every approach, meaning it's becoming integrated into all subjects and that all three stakeholders -- teachers, students and parents -- take part. "It's about unleashing the natural capacities of the children," Covey said.
Even in the kindergarten classrooms at Summerville Elementary, the children are getting an early start on becoming leaders. Like in the upper grades, the habits flow from lesson to lesson.
From learning to synergize, or work together, to beginning with the end in mind, both of which are among the seven habits, students are a getting a grasp of the concepts, according to their teachers.
If they follow and complete all the lessons on their agenda for the day, 5-year-old Isabella Graham explained, "Then we get to go to recess."
That's what it means to put first things first, one of the seven habits, she said.
And when Andrew Decker, 5, was arguing with his friend over a toy, he said he got another similar toy and played with it instead, so he was thinking win-win, another of the seven habits.
Their teacher, Linda Kauffman, who has 20 years of teaching experience, makes it a priority to interweave the terminology into every aspect of the day, from her lesson plans to asking the students to get in line to go outside.
"It really gets into their vocabulary and into their perspectives," she said.
Reach Almar Flotildes at 937-5719.
--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.
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