Thousands of adults have benefited from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People since that book was first published more than 20 years ago, and now, HISD students are starting to benefit from it, too.
Over the years, that self-help classic has been refined and reimagined to help young people cultivate a sense of personal responsibility and leadership skills, and the result is “The Leader in Me (LIM),” which is currently in place at Longfellow Elementary School and two other HISD campuses, Shearn ES and Garden Oaks Montessori.
“’The Leader in Me’ provides the most solid foundation I have ever seen to help kids lead a principled, centered life,” said Longfellow ES Principal Norma Perez-Gwynn. “It has made an incredible difference with our children.”
The program challenges students to live by seven basic tenets that encourage personal responsibility and an appreciation of others, such as “Begin with the end in mind,” and “Think win-win.”
“It’s all about teaching them that they are responsible for their own choices,” said school counselor Garland Spiller.
Perez-Gwynn noted that in addition to an increased sense of camaraderie on her campus, Longfellow students have seen “significant gains” in academic areas since the school implemented the program two years ago. “The fourth-grade students from last year, as fifth-graders this year, grew from the 60th percentile to the 80th percentile in math,” she said. “And in reading, we saw (an increase) from the 60th percentile up to the mid-70s.”
Perez-Gwynn first brought the program to Stevenson Elementary School (now closed) after hearing about it from a colleague in Round Rock ISD.
“Our students needed to know that they had choices and control over the direction of their lives,” she said. “The seven habits and the ‘Leader In Me’ proved to be the empowering processes they needed to connect them to their leadership abilities.”
Longfellow is now on track to become a “Lighthouse” school, or an exemplar LIM campus. Another three schools—Condit ES, Eliot ES, and the Gregory Lincoln Education Center—will begin implementing the LIM at their campuses this summer.