Friday, December 9, 2011

Beaumont School Leadership Day

Beaumont School in Waterford, Michigan held a great Leadership Day in November.  They are the first Lighthouse School in Michigan and have an transformational story to tell.   Attached are my notes from their school visit.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Oak Grove 4th Graders Set Nutrition Goals

Our Health Teacher, Ms. Kurtz read The 7 Habits of Happy Kids book to her 4th Grade Health Class. They learned about, Habit 2, "Begin with the End in Mind".   The students were learning about nutrition so each of Mrs. Seveska's 4th graders were invited to set a nutrition goal.  When the goals were completed, the class celebrated their success with congratulations from Ms. Kurtz and Dr. Matthews.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Readers are Leaders at Oak Grove

I am inspired by our journey into The Leader in Me. I have been contemplating ways to integrate it into my little office!  I have no extra wall space so I set up this message outside my office.  I was reading the section in the book that talks about, "...schools that take on the leadership theme do not do so at the expense of students not excelling in core subjects."  (p. 112)

And there is was!  Readers are Leaders!   Students see it every day as they walk by my office.

Mrs. Barb Gilkison
K-1 Reading Specialist

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mr. Nee's Childhood School on Long Island

Hi, I am Tim Nee, PE Teacher at Oak Grove.  As we have been learning about the 7 Habits, I have been surprised to find connections with people I know. For instance, when I mentioned the 7 Habits to my brother, he pulled a card out of his wallet to show me the personal mission statement he wrote in his 7 Habits training.  I never knew that he did this.   Another surprise was when I went to the website of the elementary I attended on Long Island, many many moons ago.  You can see that they are learning Habit I, "Be Proactive."
Tim Nee
Physical Education Teacher

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Door Decorating at 14th Street School

"We settle our differences by____"
Door Decorations at 14th Street School
This is a clever idea from Pennsylvania. "We decided to have a holiday door decorating contest featuring The Leader in Me theme. It made the building look so festive when parents came for the holiday concert! The kids were very proud to show off the doors to their parents."
Sally DeFinnis, Principal
14th Street Elementary, PA

Friday, January 28, 2011

Missouri Buddy Assembly: Sharpen the Saw

SchoolTube - Buddy Assembly: Sharpen the Saw  
Click above to see their video.

Stanton Elementary in Fenton, Missouri held a "Sharpen the Saw" activity with cross age buddies.  They each went to four sessions to remind them of balance:
Heart - wrote a letter to a loved one;
Body - jumped rope;
Mind - used clickers to test 7 Habit knowledge;
Soul - learned yoga. 

What a cool idea!

Beaumont School's Leader in Me Web Site

Beaumont School, in Waterford, Michigan, just published a new web site to share their journey to become a Leader in Me School.  A teacher at their school learned about The Leader in Me at a workshop and brought it back to share with the entire staff.  The teachers were trained in the 7 Habits just last summer; they have initiated so much in a short time.  Their new web site shows their classroom missions, data notebooks, and also has photographs of how the teachers painted their school over the summer.  They are hosting a day for people to visit their school on March 24.  I have talked with their Principal, Jan McCartan who is so excited about the changes she sees in her school.

Don't miss their website.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Oak Grove Plan

Many of our Oak Grove School teachers are reading  The Leader in Me. The book describes a elementary school in Raleigh, North Carolina where the staff began teaching the Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to all of their students with incredible interpersonal and academic results that you can read about in this blog.  The staff in our Book Club believes that this could be an amazing program for all of our children.  Empowering students to lead themselves and work with others is an essential Life and Career Skill for 21st Century Learning.  On January 14, we presented the Leader in Me concept to all of our staff.  Five of our teachers, Mrs. Taylor (K), Mrs. Friedman (2nd), Mrs. Flores (4th), Mrs. Rogers (5th) and Mrs. Fillinger (5th) have been piloting some of the ideas and shared with the staff how well their children were responding.  Most of our staff will have the Stephen Covey, 7 Habits Professional Development on June 2-3.  After the staff has a chance to practice the habits, the teachers will decide if this program might be helpful to their students.  We hope to hold some parent meetings, small groups and provide newsletters so that parents will learn the language during the 2011-12 school year.   To learn more you might want to read one of the books or go to

Learning from other Schools

In my journey to learn about The Leader in Me, I have been anxious to talk with people at other schools to find out if this is "real".  There is very little happening in our area.  Though my own research on the internet, I came up with email addresses of principals who are implementing the program in their schools.   All nine of the principals responded back to me with detailed sharing.  The common theme I heard from all of them was, "The Leader in Me is the best thing I have done in my career.  We are developing the school I always dreamed was possible."  I asked to visit three of the schools on ridiculously short notice and they all agreed.  This seems like more that a coincidence to me. I have come to the conclusion that all of these principals are "walking the talk".  They are "leaving a legacy".  They want to help all children reach their full potential and that includes the children at Oak Grove School.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reading the 7 Habits at Home

I am Jenny Pittam and I teach 5th and 7th Grade Spanish at Oak Grove. I am also a parent at our school. My daughter Olivia is in 2nd grade and my son Evan is in 1st grade. My kids and I have been reading The 7 Habits of Happy Kids at home. We love discussing the characters and how we see a little bit of each of their personalities in ourselves. I have found that after reading the stories in the book, the kids can relate to each story and the "parent discussion questions" at the end of each chapter help us delve into the story to make personal connections. This book is not only funny to the children, it is another way to bond with my children and teach them at the same time. It is a great way to reinforce the principles that our kids need to succeed such as responsibility, planning ahead, respect for others, teamwork, and balance in our lives. I highly recommend this book!

Jenny Pittam
Oak Grove Teacher

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

5th Grade Reactions to the 7 Habits

My fifth graders have been writing about their reactions to the 7 habits.   Here are some quotes from my students.

I think the 7 Habits can really help me in life, especially Habit 1 - Be Proactive.  I think I blame things on people so I don't get in trouble.  I think I need to start being able to handle consequences.  I also am going to set a goal to not gossip about people at all because I don't like to, and  I need to figure out how to stop.
After hearing about the 7 Habits, I realize that I do everything wrong, no joke!  I like and respect the Habits, I think it is very neat that we learn about them.  It will truly be life changing!  The Leader in Me is stepping out!  All of this will lead me to become a successful, loyal friend and person. Thanks!

I loved learning about the 7 Habits.  It was very interesting.  I liked it because I am going to focus more on my goals in life.  I hope that I no longer do my old "bad" habits. It was interesting to learn about "good" habits you can have that you don't even know about.

I like the 7 Habits more than Character Counts because it is easier to understand.  They are verbs and help me know what to do to be successful.  I think it will help improve my behavior, and it will help people throughout their life.

Jill Rogers
5th Grade Teacher
Oak Grove School

5th Grade 7 Habit Discussions

My fifth graders each wrote about how the 7 Habits could impact a family, a school or a community. We then made a little movie of the discussions we had about their ideas.
Karla Fillinger
5th Grade Teacher
Oak Grove School

2nd Grade 7 Habits Journals

After my 2nd graders learn a habit, they write about how they use it.  Their stories are recorded in their 7 Habits Journals.  One child wrote that he was upset with his dad because his dad would not bring up the Christmas decorations from the basement. The child decided that he would try to be proactive.  When the child offered to help his dad carry up the decorations, they did the project together and everyone was happy.

Beth Friedman
2nd Grade Teacher
Oak Grove School

The 7 Habits of Happy Kids Book

We have been reading The 7 Habits of Happy Kids in some of our classrooms Kindergarten through 4th grade. The book has cartoon characters that each have distinctive personalities which teach children to respect differences. Our students love to hear the stories. At the end of each story there are questions to help parents and teachers lead a discussion with children to bring out the learning for that habit. Because the book is so well set up, it takes little preparation time.

The children really do “get it". In the past, when children would bring me little disagreements they were having, I would sit them in chairs and monitor who would talk and how they would work it out. Now when they come to me with a similar problem, I just say, “Remember, be proactive.” and they solve it themselves.

Bonnie Taylor
Kindergarten Teacher
Oak Grove School

2nd Grade Leadership Jobs

After I read the Leader in Me, I decided to give my students some leadership roles that I had done in the past. One job is the bus leader. Each week, the child assigned leads the dismissal line. Using the clip board he calls off the names of the students who are to ride each bus. The student must use a clear, strong voice and must use eye contact to assure that each student has heard the direction and is going to the right place at the end of the day. This is an important job and students are proud that they can do it well.

Beth Friedman,
2nd Grade Teacher
Oak Grove School
PJ as the Bus Leader

Hamburger Rubric

AB Combs School used this rubric to help students think about quality work.
It's called the Hamburger Rubric and goes like this: Imagine walking into a restaurant and ordering a hamburger. After waiting an abnormally amount of time, the waiter brings you a hot dog in a soggy bun. Obviously not what you wanted! This is level 1 in quality. Here is a link:

Level 2 is you get the hamburger on time but it is barely warm and does not have the ketchup and mustard you requested.
Level 3 is you get the hamburger as you requested, hot off the grill.
Level 4 is getting the hamburger as you expected on time, with a side of fries and a shake for free - clearly more than what you expected.

Level 3 is obviously what is expected - but students are encouraged to find ways to go above and beyond to Level 4 when possible. From Jeff Janassen, Janessen Sports Leadership Center

Monday, January 17, 2011


Leader in Me Schools use signage and bulletin boards to emphasize the 7 Habits and character quotes. The evidence on the walls provides for learning throughout the day and helps the school remain focused by reminders throughout the building. In one of the AB Combs videos a teacher remarks that the school is colorful and inviting. The environment sends a message to the students that they are cared about. Principal Matt Miller from Stanton Elementary, in Missouri gives examples of their hall displays.

Goal Setting and Data Notebooks

Classroom goal.
Student data notebooks.
Schools use the habit of “Begin With the End in Mind” to think about what the staff and parents want for their school, what the mission for the class will be and to set individual goals and monitor progress   to reach them.  I visited a school in  Michigan where the teachers were modeling for the children how to set and record progress on a goal.  Teachers set a real goal for something that was hard for them.  Big chart paper was posted on the wall for the children to watch the teacher graph her progress toward the goal.  One teacher’s goal was to read the student journals.  Next, the class would set a goal. One class set a goal to see how many students had a sharpened pencil, ready to work.  Each day the graph grew as more children had their sharpened pencils ready. Next, the students set individual goals in their data notebooks.  The goals might pertain to math, reading, social, school behavior or other areas.  The children graphed their progress and then shared the graphs with their parents during student participation conferences. 

Not all schools would use all of these steps.  A very nice part of the Leader in Me is that it is not a canned program that must be followed in any particular manner.  Each school determines the ideas that would most work for promoting the 7 Habits within their school.

The 7 Habits of Happy Pilgrims

After schools are trained in the Leader in Me, they begin to share and have access to lessons designed by other teachers from around the world who are also integrating the 7 Habits ubiquitously into their lessons.  I love this kindergarten example.

Middle Schools Using the 7 Habits

Sean Covey, Dr. Covey's son wrote The 7 Habits for Highly Effective Teens.  This book is amazing in how it speaks to young people in a language they accept.  I contacted Brian Hamilton,   Principal of South Dade Middle School in   Florida where they are using this book with their students.  In addition to describing the Habits on their web site, a little video shows each habit being introduced by a teacher - very simple and clever.

Draper Middle School in New York State has student made video projects on their web site to act out each habit   In this video they demonstrate a variety of ways to proceed with holiday shopping and productive ways to put "Put First Things First"

Welcome to A.B. Combs Video

Leader in Me Web Site

A lot of information and interesting video can be found on

The Teachers Lounge login is available only to schools that complete the Leader in Me Training.

Social Greeting in the Morning Meeting

Amy Flores, Bonnie Taylor and Beth Friedman visiting with Lincoln Principal Kathleen Miller.

While visiting Lincoln School in Mundelein, the Principal invited us to sit in on classroom morning meetings.  Each teacher brings her class together for about 15 minutes with their chairs in a circle or sitting on the floor.  In the meetings, the students could talk about how they were doing with the habits and have some sharing time.  We also saw some activities to practice greetings.

Practicing Eye Contact and Greetings  One class  was excited to play a greeting game.  The students all stood up and greeted each other with eye contact, a handshake and "Good Morning  ___".  One child was secretly designated to give a "double squeeze" in their handshake.  When the children received the "double squeeze" they quietly left the game. The activity continued until no children were left standing since the "double squeeze" child had greeted everyone.  I was impressed with how the students enjoyed the activity and participated perfectly.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Visit to Lincoln School in Mundelein

I still needed to find a school to take our teachers to visit.  The St. Stanislaus Principal felt their school was not yet ready for teacher visitors.  They had not even had their Implementation Training yet.  Connie Spencer told me about another school learning the Leader in Me, this school was very close by.  The Monday before Thanksgiving teachers did not need to be to school until noon.  Would anyone be willing to go visit with me? It hardly seemed fair to even mention it since the teachers needed to conference until late. Bonnie Taylor, Amy Flores and Beth Friedman all appeared at Lincoln School in Mundelein.  There we found many indications of the Leader in Me.
The 7 Habits Tree painted by a Dad.

Celebrating Leaders

 Proactive people are in charge of their behavior.

Learning From Other Schools

While reading The Leader in Me, I found that the educators from other schools visited AB Combs School and then came back and implemented it at their own schools.  One school listed was English Estates School in Florida.  It took me a while to find Beth Sharpe since she was now at a new school but she was very willing to tell me how she implemented the program as a principal.  Christie Dickens was the principal at Dewey Elementary in Quincy, Illinois that was also written about in the book.  Christie agreed to meet me for coffee in Chicago while we were attending a conference.  I also contacted Suzanne Hahn from Illinois.  All of the principals took teachers to visit AB Combs School.  How could I get our teachers to North Carolina.  Even visiting Quincy, Illinois was a two day trip!

 I called the Franklin Covey Company to learn more and was referred to Connie Spencer, who is our regional representative, and my new guide on the journey.  She told me about St. Stans School, a PreK-8 school in Chicago that just started implementing the program. I knew I needed to go to Chicago the next day.  Would the principal let me visit?   Like everyone else I have met along the way, the principal invited me to come.  We walked up the stairs and there on the wall I saw my first indication that the Leader in Me was happening. It was not a fancy mural but a simple hand made tree, but it was a beautiful sight to me - an indication that teachers were teaching the 7 Habits.  St. Stans was also redoing their Media Center and had the poles painted with the 7 Habits.  Although, I had the opportunity to talk to a teacher and the Principal, school had been dismissed and I was not introduced to any children.  Do I dare approach the children playing outside in the After School Club.  I did not want to start a "stranger danger" issue.  The children ran over to the fence where I tried not to be obvious to the adults.  "Hi, I am here to learn about the Leader in Me.  Do you know about that?" I asked.  "Oh yes, we do.  That's like Begin with the End in Mind," one girl who could not be more than six said.  "Do you know what that means?" I asked.  "Oh sure, that's like if you are having a pizza party you need to think about getting the plates and the napkins and ordering the pizza.  Because if you don't the people will just come over and sit down and there will be nothing."  This child bowled me over.  The school had only been teaching the habits for a few weeks and this little tyke could produce it for a stranger!  I tried a few more kids and left more convinced that this program really could make an impact on our children.

The Leader in Me Finds Oak Grove

In August of 2010, I was sitting at home with my laptop reading about schools when the author said "and we are implementing The Leader in Me with our students".  Wow,  "The Leader in Me"  the thought that every child could say, "There is a leader in me." It was such a powerful phase, I was blown away. I immediately found the book on and waited three long days until it arrived.   The book describes AB Combs School in Raleigh, North Carolina that reinvents itself as a leadership school.    The leadership theme is based on Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a training that I had experienced years ago but never thought about teaching to young children.  AB Combs uses a ubiquitous integration of the habits into all areas of the curriculum and culture. I bought copies of the books for our school principals.  The first day of school, I offered to provide copies to teachers who may want to read the book.  Soon we had a Book Club that met at lunchtime.  One day, Amy Flores, 4th grade teacher, appeared at my door with a student.  "I just found out that Ching Ching transferred from  AB Combs, " she said.  We were delighted to find that we had a student that we could first hand ask about AB Combs.  We invited her to be our guest at our book club.  Ching Ching is an articulate, impressive, sensitive speaker.  Did she learn this at AB Combs or was this just a coincidence?