Leadership Day, a great idea on parade

Elsa Ashley listens to first grader Marshall Mires who reads her a book during Leadership Day. (Jacque Clements photo)

Elsa Ashley listens to first grader Marshall Mires who reads her a book during Leadership Day. (Jacque Clements photo)

| By Joel Harding |

Waterville School and the community of which it is a part are involved in a great endeavor. In adopting “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” as the basis of a change in school culture, Waterville has taken a huge step toward changing the way students learn and, simultaneously, better preparing them to contribute to the world in which they live. Already, student activity has shown an improvement in achievement while allowing youngsters to follow their interests and inclinations. Leadership Day, held May 30,  was a showcase of how this phenomenon is taking place at the Waterville School.

At the center of this change are the “seven habits.” These principles were identified by business consultant Stephen R. Covey in a book first published in 1989. The habits are:

1. Be Proactive

2. Begin with the End in Mind

3. Put First Things First

4. Think Win-Win

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

6. Synergize

7. Sharpen the Saw

These seven habits alternate between taking responsibility, helping others and developing one’s own intelligence and energy. They provide a set of principles on which a school community can be built in which students learn not only academic lessons, but how they can become leaders in the school community based upon their own talents and interests. In both teaching and living the habits themselves, educators become more credible not only in academics but in the life lessons they teach.

During the presentations and activities of Leadership Day, there was ample evidence of students using the habits for their own learning. In student data sharing, the elementary school town meeting, the Biodioversity Project, the Marketplace of Projects and Senior Project presentations, the influences of these ideas were evident. Getting the learning job done and doing so with and for others as well as oneself was shown again and again by the students as they shared their learning with the community and with visitors. Connley Skeen, a senior consultant with Franklin Covey and a “Leader In Me” Lighthouse Coach, came all the way from Anderson, S.C., to see how Waterville School employs the seven habits.

The late afternoon activities, mostly involving older students, the influence of the habits was present as well. At the Federated Church, the school choir presented a rendition of beautiful music, made possible by the students’ capacity to bring together their voices in a coordinated way. This is synergy (Habit 6) in melodic form. Many of the same students, using their musical instruments, continued to entertain. The art exhibition next door, while more individual, showed the same height of creativity.

The final event of the day, the Crimson Awards, honored the athletic teams of Waterville School. Increasingly coaches are using the seven habits, especially individual and collective goal setting, in and with their teams. The increasing levels of success are evidence of that application.

Leadership Day was a celebration of positive spirit in the school and community. Participants enjoyed it from the opening ceremony to the last presentations at the Crimson Awards Banquet.