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Indian Trail Elementary is ‘lighthouse’ for leadership skills

Cora Courtney, at left, and Leah Blount, both 9-year-old third graders at Indian Trail Elementary School, serve as tour guides, explaining various activities students have worked on throughout the year. (Below) An Indian Trail Elementary School student leads a tour around his school.

If you want to find a school filled with future leaders, look no farther than Indian Trail Elementary School, which has become a model school for the Leader in Me program.

The Leader in Me is based on Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” an initiative the school began looking at three years ago and implemented two years ago.

The school held a leadership day recently to show off its students and their ability to be young leaders.

Kindergarten through fifth-grade students took the lead as parents and visitors entered the school, introducing themselves and then escorting them around the school, offering information as they walked.

Visitors, led by students carrying flags, walked down hallways to view student work and into the classrooms to watch students in action. They were also able to go behind the scenes to watch teachers’ planning periods.

“Students met one-on-one with adults to show them their leadership notebook,” said Indian Trail Elementary principal Candice Boatright. “In those, students set goals, they track their data. They put victories and celebrations in there. They reflect on their leadership roles throughout the school. It’s their notebook, a celebration of them.”

During the daylong celebration, students also demonstrated their talents, whether that was playing the violin or beating out rhythms on a drum.

Holly Weaver, PTO president, said the benefit of the leadership program is obvious. “Students stand tall. They are confident. They speak loudly. They are proud of their leadership here at the school.”

Jennifer Arneson is a parent of three children at Indian trail Elementary: GiGi, a first grader; Haakon, a third grader; and Cyrus, a fifth grader.

“I think this is absolutely phenomenal,” Arneson said of the program. “I have seen such growth with my three, thinking ahead before they do things. They actually stop and ask themselves, ‘How can I make this a win-win situation between my brother and I who are fighting right now.’ My youngest, GiGi, is all about synergizing. She talks about it all the time. It’s not just in the school. It’s coming home. It’s playing out in our family life, as well.”

Boatright said every day teachers block out 20 minutes to focus on “habit time.”

“They try to make it as natural as possible,” Boatright said. “Whatever book they’re reading, teachers try to find the character traits. Was the character proactive? Did this person seek first to understand? Did they synergize with others? It becomes a natural part of the curriculum.”

Third-grade teacher Erica Brown said teachers go through the habits until they become a habit, until they’re a lifestyle.

“We are doing the habits ourselves as teachers, becoming positive role models,” Brown said. “We’re a community in here. We know we’re all in charge of ourselves. It’s not my classroom. It’s our classroom. There are 22 teachers in here. They listen to each other. They learn from each other. Sometimes they learn much better from each other than from me.”

Two students, Cora Courtney and Leah Blount, both 9-year-old third graders, talked about how much they enjoyed showing parents around their school and demonstrating their leadership skills. They explained each of the seven habits when asked.

“Habit three is put first things first,” Leah said. “You make a list of what’s first. Like, do your homework before you go play, and clean your room.”

Cora explained Habit five: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

“Say for example, Leah was talking, and I put my hand up,” Cora said. “Well, I’m not actually listening to her because I’m thinking of that question or that answer. So I need to listen to what she says and if I have a question or an answer, I raise my hand after she’s done talking.”

During the school’s first Leadership Day event, not only community leaders and parents toured, but other school systems as well. Boatright said the school had an excellent turnout, with the hallways filled with student-led tours.

The first Leadership Day is slated to become an annual event, letting the school serve as a lighthouse to show others the way to teaching student leadership.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe - UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Jun 09, 2015 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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