If you don’t know much about Stephen Covey, you’ve probably at least heard of his most famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But there is so much more to him than that. Although he was known for his work in the business field, he also used his time and resources to help schools improve their performance through his program titled “The Leader in Me.”
“The Leader in Me” was started in 1999 by Muriel Summers, the principal of a small failing magnet school. She attended one of Covey’s conferences about the seven habits and afterwards asked him if he thought these habits could be taught to children as young as five years old. After thinking about it for a second, he replied that he did.
Summers headed home to A. B. Combs Elementary School in North Carolina, full of new ideas. Over the next couple months, she and her staff worked to incorporate the new theme of leadership into their school, based on the seven habits. Over the next six years, the school increased its passing scores on tests by 30% and was named the number one magnet school in America in 2006. Teacher morale skyrocketed, parental involvement increased, and students started teaching curriculum to their families at home.
What makes this program so effective? The curriculum hasn’t changed, just the way the curriculum is taught. As Covey put it, “From the moment they walk into the school each day until the final bell rings, the children soak in their adult leaders’ belief that they are leaders of their own lives, have unique talents, and can make a difference.” The students are taught the seven habits and are expected to live as leaders to the people around them by making the right decisions. Covey stated it this way: “The concept is to get all little children to see themselves as a leaders; not in the formal authority sense, but in more of a moral authority sense in that they live by principles and have responsibilities to influence other people.” In other words, students are taught to act and not be acted upon.
I believe that Covey had the right idea about education. If you have any spare time, I recommend reading an article he wrote titled “Our Children and the Crisis in Education.” If you don’t have time, let me share one of my favorite quotes with you. In the article, Stephen Covey says, “When I look into the eyes of the children, I see the hope of the world. As I watch the talent of the teachers and adult leaders of these schools in action, partnered with devoted parents, I see the hope of the world. Leadership is the highest of all the arts, for it is the enabling art of unlocking human potential. It is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”