The Leader in Me

The Leader in Me

Last week, I had the privilege of attending my 6th grade twins’ end of the year elementary band concert on the middle school campus. The twins were extremely excited to perform for an audience and show off their talent and all that they have learned throughout the year. Not to mention, the excitement of performing on a stage at the “middle school.” The “middle school” they will attend next year.


This year, I have a strange perspective, as I am a parent and employee, within the district. My twins attend a K-6 elementary school that feeds into the middle school. I, however, also teach the opportunity/community day school that takes the middle school students that are suspended and expelled from this same middle school. Ironic?

The district is a “The Leader in Me” district. What is the “The Leader In Me” you ask.

“Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”

~ Stephen R. Covey

What is The Leader in Me?

The district has embraced and implemented The Leader in Me approach in developing a culture of leadership in all of our schools based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® by Stephen Covey.

Founded on internationally recognized and universal principles, The Leader in Me model emphasizes skills parents, teachers, and business leaders want and students need to be successful in an ever-changing society – skills of accountability, adaptability, initiative, self-direction, responsibility, problem solving, communication and teamwork – and they are taught and developed in our students.

Developing a culture of leadership in our schools is about inspiring children to be leaders of their own lives; it helps them identify their own unique talents and abilities and encourages them to make a positive difference in the world.

The Leader in Me is not a program or a curriculum.  It is an integrated approach to leadership development that will help our District fulfill its mission to prepare each of our students for success in high school, college and career.

Our Leader in Me Journey

The District has already embarked on this exciting journey to inspire greatness in all of our students. “The district” has accomplished the following:

  • Integrated a common language and leadership development approach based on the 7 Habits in every classroom in the District
  • Implemented “Lighthouse Leadership Teams” in every school to further develop and implement The Leader in Me Approach throughout the District.
  • Provided training for over 600 staff members and PTA leadership teams in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® by Stephen Covey.
  • Completed Implementation Training for all district employees.
  • Provided a Leader in Me coach from Franklin Covey to support long term implementation
  • Obtained long-term support from the Panda Cares Foundation to sustain The Leader in Me implementation for years to come.

We Invite You To…

  • Visit The Leader in Me website
  • Read The Leader in Me, 2nd Edition, by Dr. Stephen R. Covey.
  • Ask your child about the 7 Habits.
  • Visit the Public Library to check out The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey and read it to your kids.
  • Talk with a member of your child’s school PTA Executive Board about it.
  • Visit the Sean Covey website for 7 Habits games and activities for kids:
  • Print out the 7 Habits Tree to post on your refrigerator HERE
  • Begin with the End in Mind (Habit #2): Set a goal, track progress and celebrate!Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Dr. Stephen Covey.
  • Model the 7 Habits in your family.
  • Attend an upcoming 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families training taught by one of our school Lighthouse Leaders.

What are the 7 Habits?

Habit One: Be Proactive

  • I have a “Can Do” attitude.
  • I choose my actions, attitudes and moods. I don’t blame others. I do the right thing without being asked, even if nobody is looking.

Habit Two: Begin with the End in Mind

  • I plan ahead and set goals.
  • I do things that have meaning and make a difference. I am an important part of my classroom. I look for ways to be a good citizen.

Habit Three: Put First Things First

  • I spend my time on things that are most important.
  • This means I say no to things I should not do.
  • I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow my plan. I am organized.

Habit Four: Think Win-Win

  • I want everyone to be a success. I don’t have to put others down to get what I want. It makes me happy to see other people happy. I like to do nice things for others. When a conflict arrives, I help brainstorm a solution. We all can win!

Habit Five: Seek First To Listen, Then to Be Understood

  • I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings. I try to see things from their viewpoints.
  • I listen to others without interrupting. I am confident in voicing my ideas.

Habit Six: Synergize

  • I value other people’s strengths and learn from them. I get along well with others, even people who are different from me. I work well in groups. I seek out other people’s ideas to solve problems. I know that “two heads are better than one”. I am a better person when I let other people into my life and work.

Habit Seven: Sharpen the Saw

  • I take care of my body by eating right, exercising, and getting sleep. I spend time with family and friends. I learn in lots of ways and lots of places. (district website)”

The band concert occurred the last week of April. While walking across the middle school campus, on the way to the gym to find a seat for the band concert, I had a moment. I noticed the pillars and the motivational quotes painted on the walls. I thought of Dr. Henry and realized “how, finally, I was “seeing” White Privilege, Whiteness as Property in education and understanding how education is seen as property (Harris, 1993).”

When you walk on campus, you are met by this quote painted right on the side of the main office building.

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. Stephen Covey.”


The Leader in Me

Basically, students need to understand they have control of their destiny, but do they? I thought, “Who decided to paint this on the wall of the building? Did they consider the student population they service? This middle school is 70% Hispanic students and 61% are low income. Many of these students have limited power and control over their lives and what access they have available to them. As I read this quote, I immediately thought of my students in the community day school that were suspended/expelled from this campus. They had no control over their circumstances. They lack whiteness, financial stability, stable home lives and often fear immigration issues. They are a product of their circumstances and the institutional racism that continues to disadvantage them.

I turned around and on the other wall, this is the other quote that is displayed.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Thomas Edison”


These two “positive quotes” are displayed outside the office. The location where most students go to be disciplined. The two quotes are not visible from the rest of the campus and you don’t specifically enter the campus and see these quotes. Has the education community on this campus actually listened to the counterstories (Espino, 2012) of their students? Do they even know the struggles these students and families deal with every day? What is the message upon enter this campus, “That if they learn the “White way,” then things will work?”

As I continued to walk towards the gym, I began taking pictures of the all the pillars on the campus and wondered how these “slogans” weren’t imposing “Whiteness as property” or “White privilege” with no true research or data to prove that these were valuable traits to be sharing with our students.

Trait #1 Be Proactive.






Yet, my students were told not to talk back, not to deny what they did or suffer further consequences. Therefore, many of them brokered a deal to receive less consequences for a violation they may or may not have committed.

As I was reading “The Leader in Me” by Steven Covey to my class, at the beginning of the year, my perspective of the book was that it was so far removed from what my students were dealing with that they couldn’t relate. The book is written by a white, moron, male and our district has purchased the books, sent teachers to trainings and, as you can see, has committed to adopting and displaying the 7 Habits within the daily culture of the school. Basically, we are “transforming the structural, cultural, and interpersonal aspects of education that maintains the subordination of [students] of color (Solorzano, 1998, p. 123).”


Espino, M. M. (2012). Seeking the “truth” in the stories we tell: The role of critical face

espistemology in  higher education research. Review of Higher Education, 36(1), 31-67.

Harris, C.I. (1993). Whiteness as Property. Harvard Law Review, 106(8), pp. 1707-1791.

Rawls, J., & Kelly, E. (2001). Justice as fairness: A restatement. Cambridge, Mass:

Harvard University Press.



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