Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Leader in Me

A seminal moment in the annals of American education occurred on April 20, 1999. At 11:17 a.m. on a beautiful, clear morning in Littleton, Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on two students at Columbine High School. Forty-nine minutes later, fifteen people were dead, including the shooters (TIME magazine, 2009). David Cullen, who penned the most comprehensive book to date on the school shooting, Columbine, described Harris as a psychopath, a natural-born killer. However, he discovered a more nuanced understanding of Klebold. As TIME magazine stated in its review of Cullen’s book:

"If there is a lesson here, it lies in Klebold's story, which is the more disturbing because he was, at heart, like us. He was capable of love and sympathy, and he discarded them. Some killers are natural born. Klebold was made." (Grossman, TIME magazine, 2009 - read the entire article

Next year, my school district is implementing The Leader in Me character education program. Click here to read more about the program. This might be the most important initiative that our district has ever undertaken.

Education encompasses many noble ideas, but teaching character is more important now than ever before. This program, based on Stephen Covey’s landmark bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is the character education program for the 21st Century.

The Leader in Me teaches very young kids to, first, be leaders of themselves through utilizing habits 1-3. Next, habits 4-6 teach kids to be leaders of others. Finally, habit 7 directs kids to take care of themselves. These are timeless principles that we should all be utilizing.

Habit 1: Be proactive – You’re in charge
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind – Have a plan
Habit 3: Put first things first – Work first, then play
Habit 4: Think win-win – Everyone can win
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood – Listen before you talk
Habit 6: Synergize – Together is better
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw – Balance feels best

Can you imagine how we could change lives by teaching elementary-aged children to use these principles?

I am super-excited about this initiative. I have visited schools where they implement this model and it is empowering to hear a third grader verbalize what it means to be proactive.

The TIME magazine quote above is sobering. How many kids have wandered through our schools and gained an education, but lost themselves? We have an obligation to educate the whole person. Certainly, children should be learning this character at home, but too often it just does not happen.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on character education in the schools? Is it worth an investment?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Character education in schools is absolutely worth the investment. Schools are good at teaching and testing for things they can measure: math skills, reading levels, writing ability, and so on. But they are not so good at teaching or measuring the most important qualities: responsibility, honesty, empathy, kindness, and the like. Obviously, students need both sets of skills, but the skills we value most are the character qualities.