Education leaders come together to see the impact Leader in Me has had on children in Warren County

Published 9:36 am Friday, January 20, 2017

The Vicksburg Leader in Me Symposium kicked off with a visit from a highly effective person.

Sean Covey, the executive vice president of FranklinCovey — the company that pioneered the Leader in Me program, was the opening keynote speaker Thursday morning at the Vicksburg Convention Center where 168 teachers, administrators and business leaders gathered to learn about the Leader in Me program.

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“Today I wanted to share with you a little bit about the origins of The Leader in Me so we can better understand the impact this is having on children and how this can influence the way we educate,” he said.

Covey is the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” and his father Stephen wrote, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which are the books the Leader in Me program is built around.

Covey also visited Bowmar Elementary School Thursday, to see how the Leader in Me has impacted education in Vicksburg. He said he appreciated the way Vicksburg implemented the program on a district level, have integrated it into schools over time and have received support from the community.

“I commend the great work in Vicksburg,” he said. “It’s just remarkable to see what they’re doing.”

The seven habits were brought into schools in 1999 when a failing public magnet school — A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina — was on the verge of being shut down. The principal Muriel Summers happened to attend a seven habits workshop and knew immediately this is what her school needed. She promptly took what she learned back to the teachers and students and things started to turn around. The school was eventually named the No. 1 Magnet School in America. Soon, the Leader in Me was organized by FranklinCovey and used in over 3,000 schools in school systems around the world.

“The Leader in Me really is about helping children develop 21st century life skills, leadership skills,” Covey said. “It’s about preparing them for college, career and life in general. Most of all it teaches us that everybody is capable.”

Two of the most important things for educators to remember when it comes to children are that high expectations of student achievement are necessary for students to succeed, and strong relationships among educators greatly impact the learning environment.

“Common language is key,” Covey said. “How well you get along with each other has more to do with the outcome of the students than anything else.”

Covey said his father from a young age told people who asked that he wanted to “unleash human potential” when he grew up. When Stephen got older he became a professor and studied what made people tick. By studying people, he derived the seven habits that would most benefit a person to be the best they could be, Covey said.

“These are traits he found that happy, productive, effective people have,” Covey said. “The seven habits basically help people become interdependent. They move from depends, to becoming independent people capable on their own, to becoming really good with other people. That’s the journey of the seven habits.”

An important facet of the program is having private victories and fixing internal problems before having public victories and healing relationships with others. Being proactive, having a clear purpose, leaving the past in the past and choosing the future are steps in the leadership model.

“The idea is that most of our problems in life are relationship problems…the root of fixing those problems lies within yourself. It’s getting your own act together,” Covey said. “That was the idea he (Stephen) came out with.”

Body, heart, mind and spirit, he said, need to be worked on continually. He said the habits put the person in charge of their own future and it starts within the individual.

“It’s an inside out approach,” Covey said.

He ended by encouraging everyone to look forward to better things to come.

“I also want to challenge you as educators, challenge all of us, to live our lives in crescendo, meaning we’re always getting better and our greatest work is always ahead of us,” he said.

The conference continues Friday with local school tours. Follow on Twitter with the hashtag #TLIM.