Students learn to be leaders in Jordan School District
Leader in Me • Program is based on book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
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Sure, there's the mathematics, social studies, reading and writing — all staples of elementary education.

But some Utah schools are asking students to broaden their learning spectrum, adding such things as conflict resolution, proactive thinking and raising social and academic expectations.

Twenty-one schools in the Jordan School District have incorporated the Leader In Me Program into their daily learning. The initiative, inspired by Stephen Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, focuses on transforming the culture of the classroom and beyond.

"The language that is spoken through the Seven Habits is so intuitive for the elementary school kids that it's a natural to be implemented into the very fabric of the school academics, and into the hallways," said Steve Hall, executive director of the Jordan Education Foundation.

The foundation has helped fund the program, which began with two schools — Eastlake Elementary in South Jordan and Falcon Ridge Elementary in West Jordan — back in 2009. Through fund-raising and donations from local businesses, the foundation is able to make available $5,000 to each participating school to fund the program.

The Seven Habits guide students in areas such as leadership, accountability, adaptability, communication and teamwork. Children learn to be proactive in their thinking and planning, to plan with an end result in mind, to set goals in academics and chart their course toward reaching those goals.

A charter school in North Carolina was the first to adapt the core principals almost a decade ago. Since then, Franklin Covey, a global performance improvement company based in Salt Lake City, has seen the program reach more than 1,000 schools in North America, and more than 100 schools on other continents, including Australia, Europe, South America and Asia.

"It was about a year ago when we really started promoting it internationally," said Bill McIntyre, vice president of International Business Development for Franklin Covey Education. "The Seven Habits are timeless principles and applicable in all cultures."

About 30 educators from Brazil's Abril Group visited Eastlake Elementary earlier this month to get a first-hand look at how the program is implemented, and the results it yields.

Abril currently uses Leader In Me in a pilot school in Rio de Janeiro.

"In the group that came over were principals from several other schools, as well as the Under Secretary for the city of Rio de Janeiro," McIntyre said. "They were just trying to learn more about what the impact has been."

The program currently is designed for elementary school children, though McIntyre said the goal is to expand to middle school students.

Hall shared stories from teachers and administrators who support the program. They tell of students resolving conflicts peacefully without adult intervention, reduced number of office referrals for misbehavior, and parents' reports of their children coming home and completing homework before play time.

Hall said he believes the program is effective because it is not a "top-down" program mandated by the district. It's a teacher-driven program that the Jordan District would like to offer the program in each of its 51 elementary schools, if it can secure funding required to make that possible.

"The parents, the teacher, the principals see that it is working," Hall said. "It's exciting. You just have to tweak how you think, how you talk and how you transform your building.

"That's the key. Because that's when parents can get involved. Businesses can get involved. School community councils can get involved. PTAs can get involved. Because everyone is speaking the same language. And that's the goal."

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Developing leaders

Twenty-one schools in the Jordan District have incorporated The Leader In Me Program over the past three years.

The program, developed by Franklin Covey, is utilized in more than 1,000 schools in North America and more than 100 schools on other continents.

The program is aimed at helping students develop social and academic plans to help foster a better learning environment.