Learning to lead

Wednesday enrichments set aside time for Leader In Me sessions

Teacher+Jake+Bickham+leads+a+Leader+In+Me+discussion+during+Wednesday+enrichment.+Weekly+Leader+in+Me+enrichments+began+this+school+year.

Photo by Truth Dukes

Teacher Jake Bickham leads a Leader In Me discussion during Wednesday enrichment. Weekly Leader in Me enrichments began this school year.

Story by Stephanie Jumper and Dakota Dennard

It’s Wednesday, the enrichment bell rings and the student body waits for the weekly announcement to crackle from the speakers. “It is time for Leader in Me” is the signal for teachers to begin the lesson plan and for students to prepare for the PowerPoints to come. 

The Leader In Me activities conducted during Wednesday enrichments are designed to help students grow through the principles and work ethics it teaches.

Many students haven’t been exposed to the principles that Leader In Me teaches. They might have a home life that doesn’t value education or parents who don’t think it is important for them to learn these ideas. Regardless, they don’t have these principles instilled in them, so Leader In Me is an opportunity for them to learn life lessons revolving around how to be a productive member of society.

“[The lessons] show people how they can improve themselves,” sophomore Christian Douglas said. “It also shows me ways I can improve myself.”

In previous years, adults involved in the program pushed to change school schedules to include a new time slot each week devoted to Leader In Me. This plan fell through, and holding these lessons during enrichment was their next best option. Wednesday was their day of choice partially due to its high student attendance rates.

“We’ve seen a lot of traction with a lot of teachers having good conversations,” coordinator Michael Folse said. “Then, we’ve had teachers like, ‘This isn’t working for me. My kids aren’t really interested.’ We’re expecting feedback on both positive and negative and work to make it better.”

Folse is a Leader In Me lighthouse coordinator. Part of this job description is to distribute information to school staff and collaborate with principals to plan lessons.

“Leader in Me is content, but it’s not content as in science or English,” Folse said. “It’s character development and becoming a more complete person. Mind, body, spirit and heart. We look at those four things and try to combine all those and make the person better.”

The program enforces different principles already instilled in everyone. A wide range of students can learn something from these sessions.

“Leader In Me is a culture development program,” Principal Julius Anderson said. “A traditional school setting has the aim of social development as well as academic development. Leader In Me provides students opportunities to find their voice and develop critical thinking skills.”

The principles are based upon the concepts of the “7 Healthy Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” The course is four years long and extends even beyond “7 Healthy Habits.” The end goal is to allow students to think critically, set goals, self-direct their learning and work in groups.

“It provides a logical, sequential and balanced process to help schools proactively design the culture that reflects their vision of the ideal school,” The Texas High website states. “The 7 Habits is a synthesis of universal, timeless principles of personal and interpersonal effectiveness, such as responsibility, vision, integrity, teamwork, collaboration and renewal, which are secular in nature and common to all people and cultures.”

Instead of a student sitting on their phone or doing homework they could have done last night, this gives them an opportunity to improve themselves ethically rather than academically.

“I feel like it is a good program. I think students get a lot of benefits from seeing some of these concepts that can be applied through high school and into adulthood,” teacher Mark Ahrens said. “I think there are a lot of real benefits and merits in doing it.”

Leader In Me enrichments are also a chance for teachers to explore less formal versions of lesson planning. 

“As teachers, we’re so used to having a structured lesson; we don’t want it to be that,” Folse said. “Leader In Me is about character development. We want there to be a very loose structure to it. We want the conversations to drive the lessons themselves.”

It’s hard to tell if it is going to influence students, but if it does direct them to a better life, students can grow for the better.

“It’s impossible to tell if something like this is doing any good in this short of time,” Ahrens said. “Maybe later in the year we will be able to see.”

Although the enrichments are in their infancy, lighthouse coordinates have high hopes for the future of the program.

“It’s gonna take time for everybody to get on board and get used to it, but after the typical growing pains of a new system, I do think we’ll start to see some growth and change in our student population,” lighthouse coordinator Britni Huggins said. “If everybody gives it a chance and listens to the lessons with an open mind, then it will do what we envision it to do.”

This course to improve attitudes and ideals, if successful, could lead to great students and even better adults.

“When you walk out of high school, it’s not something that you’ll take with you as far as what you learned in content,” Folse said. “It’s more, ‘Will I become a better member of society? Will I become a better person because I have different viewpoints on life and I can collaborate with other people? I know I can’t control that the world has fallen apart around me, but I can control how I respond to those things.’”