ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
Originally developed by a principal and teachers who wanted to teach their students life skills alongside academics, Leader in Me shows leadership, responsibility, accountability, problem solving, adaptability and social-emotional skills were just as important as math and reading.
Officials with Liberal’s Sunflower Elementary adopted the Leader in Me program, and last Friday, the school hosted its Leadership Day to allow children to show parents what they have learned, the growth they have made and the goals they have been working on during the school year.
Sunflower third grade teacher Nicole Hougard said through the Leader in Me program, focus is primarily given and teaching directed to seven habits.
“They’re just basic life skills – making plans, making goals, following through, organizing, getting work done before we play,” she said.
At the elementary level, Hougard said the hope is children will begin building foundations like setting goals and following through with them, which will later be beneficial at the junior high and high school levels of education.
“They have those skills to write their homework down and know they need to get it done and organize what they need to get done, put into their working skills,” she said.
Hougard said principles taught in Leader in Me will continue to benefit students as they enter adulthood, with concepts such as being on time and understanding work assignments.
“We’re building those foundations to help them as they get older,” she said. “Our big goal is for them to understand those foundations and start learning them and practicing them at this elementary level.”
For Hougard, the hope is for children in Leader in Me to continue the skills they learn throughout life.
“It’s knowing these are the tasks I need to get done, these are the high priority, I need to get this done, these are my goals, this is how I’m going to reach them and just being able to follow through and be that leader for others,” she said.
Hougard added Sunflower leaders hope children can likewise see they can do huge things even at a young age.
“They control their life and their choices,” she said. “We’re hoping this shows parents that, and they can take that home and have that same similar environment where the kids are in control of their life and their choices even at this young age. You don’t have to be an adult to make those choices. You can start those life choices now.”
At Sunflower, Leader in Me is started in kindergarten and runs through fifth grade, and Hougard said each year, habits from the previous year are built on during the current school year.
“We build on their portfolios, and it will show the kids how far they’ve come even in these short years at Sunflower and show them if they keep going, how much further they will get by the time they become adults and that they can accomplish because we started those goals now,” she said.
Hougard said Leader in Me is most beneficial because children learn they have many choices.
“They’re learning to take responsibility for their learning,” she said. “They’re learning how to ask questions that help build their education and their knowledge and not always waiting for the teachers to do it. They’re taking control of their own education, life choices and goals.”