I was tempted to take a break and put off writing this, but then every kid in this story would know I was not following habit number 3 – Put first things first.
It is one of seven themes gaining traction as good habits to teach students, based on the bestselling book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey.
Habit 3 is a favorite of fifth-grader Elliana Gaskins, who explained, “At home, I do my homework first, then I go play.”
She was one of five girls, all with favorite habits (I asked), sitting at the welcome table for Leadership Day at Mary Ann Sanders Elementary when retired teacher Mary Ann Sanders arrived.
Slightly stunned looks greeted her, but in classic teacher style, Sanders prompted a quick discussion and moments later helped them turn the table so its lettering faced the welcome-ees instead of the welcomers.
Teamwork. That would be habit 6, what Sanders students call synergize – the favorite of third-grader Mayrin Ortega.
For fellow third-grader Ellianna Tuers, sitting next to first Ellianna, the best habit is number 4. “Think win-win. That’s because you combine your two ideas together – so you can have a whole new game instead of just (playing) one game or the other,” she explained.
The youngest at the table was first-grader Evia Li. “My favorite habit is number 5, seek first to understand (then be understood), because you can understand a person’s ideas if they’re sad. You can listen with your eyes and your ears and your heart.”
Sharpen the saw, habit 7, was the favorite of fifth-grader Alexia Paulus, which for her meant eating healthy and exercising.
But it also means life-long learning and balancing work and family, shouted second-graders during one of seven high-energy acts performed for visitors. All students took part in at least one, as well as a rousing whole-school song at the end.
“It gives me hope, we’re raising these future leaders,” said Jennifer Miyakawa, a Sylvan school board member in the audience.
“You can really tell they mean it. They’re internalizing these values,” said board President Terriann Zeek, sitting beside her.
“And they’re taking them home – that’s where they really want to see it,” Miyakawa said. “Every time I come here I want to bring my teens – put first things first!” she added with a laugh.
Principals from other Sylvan district schools also came, seeing how seven habits could infuse a campus culture. But each school’s staff has to buy in and make it their own, noted Rebecca Harms, principal at Crossroads Elementary. “It has to be organic,” she said.
That would be habit 2: Begin with the end in mind. It is an ethos that seems to infuse many of the practices at Sanders.
“Begin with the end in mind,” kindergarten teacher Lesley Cairns intoned as she watched small index fingers typing basic words while listening to the sounds – practicing reading, but also getting used to keyboards they will use in later grades. “They are constantly using that language of seven habits,” she said.
Older students keep “leadership binders” at their desks, where they track their own attendance and grades, and set goals for themselves.
Students also pitch in to support the school and help (http://sanderses.sylvan.k12.ca.us/about-our-school/clubs-organizations) each other, said Principal Carrie Albert.
The tech team straightens up the computer lab. The beautification team weeds and plants flowers. The library crew puts away books. All pretty traditional helper roles.
But at Sanders kids also brainstorm improvements for the school website. They serve as kindergarten tutors, listening to budding readers, and first-grade tutors helping out with specific lessons.
Peer mediators take shifts each recess to help kids work playground arguments. Fights call for teachers, Albert said, but disagreements over who gets the last basketball can be straightened out kid to kid.
The Student Lighthouse team plans more ways for kids to take part and organizes special events. Their work might fall under habit 1: Be proactive. Leadership Day, for example, which this year had a dinner theater quality at the suggestion of the kids.
“This day is all about empower our students to show off their leadership skills,” Albert said.
Mary Ann Sanders Elementary in the Sylvan Union School District wraps themes from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey into lessons, performances and leadership teams.
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 be understood.
7. Sharpen the saw.
Source: Mary Ann Sanders Elementary School