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Teaching the Next Generation to be “Highly Effective People”

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by M.D. Pitman

When students at St. Lawrence complete elementary school, they will do so with the habits and virtues found in “highly effective people.” This is the goal of the Price Hill institution’s faculty and staff as they work to transform the school’s teaching philosophy.

St. Lawrence School is in its second of an expected four-year process to install the Leader in Me program, a teaching model designed to instill students with leadership and life skills. The Leader in Me program is based on the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Erica Tyler, a St. Lawrence social worker, read about the Leader in Me program a couple of years ago before sharing it with her colleague, Jen Long, the school’s resource coach. They agreed that St. Lawrence needed the program and got Principal Rich Klus on board.

“It just sounded like such a great fit for what our students needed,” said Tyler.

Common Language
The program honed in on skills like problem-solving and goal-setting, and while teachers may have touched on these attributes, they weren’t consistent in their format and style from teacher to teacher. Now the staff and student body are using the same common language of the seven habits and virtues the same way, said Tyler and Long.

For example, if a teacher sees two students arguing on the playground, he or she will ask, “Were you thinking win-win?” The students know exactly what that means and say, no, and communicate how they should have solved the problem, or yes, and share how they solved it.

“You’ll hear that [common language] in kindergarten; you’ll hear that in eighth grade,” Long said. “You’ll hear that across the board.”

Giving Kids a Boost
St. Lawrence is the only archdiocesan school in the midst of implementing the program, though Corryville Catholic is headed in that direction as well. Tyler said they’re pushing the program because it will prepare the students for the future.

“It just seems like something that can give our kids kind of a boost or something more that can propel them into future success,” she said.

And this is something families could use as life happens.

“In so many homes nowadays, life is busy; life is chaos. You’re struggling to get dinner on the table, food packed for the next day, getting to practice, getting a shower. There just isn’t the time that there used to be to learn these kinds of things,” Long said.

The St. Lawrence administration believes this program will benefit students long-term.

“It’s going to become a part of who they are, and it will take them into high school, into college, and into their adult lives,” Long said.

Culture Change
Schools across the country have implemented the Leader in Me program, and Tyler, Long and Klus visited three of them to prepare for program implementation.

“This isn’t something that happens like that,” said Long snapping her fingers. “This is an entire culture change here at St. Lawrence. And in order to roll it out completely, it takes at least four years, so we are taking chunks at a time.”

Last academic year, the school spent time learning the language of the program. This year, goal-setting is their focus, including how to make goals, follow through with them and evaluate the results.

“What I’m excited about is seeing the difference it makes in the kids who’ve been doing [the Leader in Me program] from kindergarten, second grade, third grade,” Long said.

They’re also anxious to see how this impacts the younger generations, which, nationally, are leaving the Church at high rates. Saint Mary’s Press of Minnesota and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University released study results in 2018 showing 74 percent of young Catholics surveyed left the Church between 10 and 20 years old, reported the Catholic news organization Crux.

“If this is something we can get as a part of their lives, as a part of something they’re used to, then maybe we’ll hang on to them,” Long said.

7 Virtues & Habits

Charity & Love
IS TO LOVE GOD AND LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSELVES
Be proactive by making the choice to love, and choosing love each day will allow us to become a product of that love.

Prudence
IS THE ABILITY TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG
Begin with the end in mind and envision the outcome before we act.

Temperance
IS CHOOSING WELL AND EXERCISING SELF-CONTROL
Put first things first by placing the important before the unimportant.

Fortitude
IS COURAGE IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY AND STRENGTH TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT
Think win-win and seek solutions to situations that benefit all parties.

Justice
IS GIVING TO ANOTHER WHAT IS THEIR DUE AND THE STRENGTH TO RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF EVERY PERSON
Seek first to understand, then to be understood by listening to others to see things from their perspective. By obtaining true clarity, we can find solutions to problems.

Faith
IS THE GIFT OF GOD’S INVITATIONS TO BELIEVE IN HIM AND THE ABILITY OR POWER TO RESPOND
Synergize by cooperating with God’s grace in order to grow in our spiritual lives.

Hope
IS KEEPING OUR EYES FOCUSED ON THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AND TRUSTING GOD ABOVE ALL ELSE
Sharpen the Saw by renewing the body, heart, mind and soul so that we may be strong in difficult times.

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