Coosa Elementary School tries a new approach

Originally published in the Lady’s Island Business Professional Association’s newsletter for July 2013

Each public school on Lady’s Island offers something special in its approach to educating its students.  Lady’s Island Elementary School offers an art infused curriculum.  Lady’s Island Middle School offers a curriculum with emphasis on science, technology, energy, arts and math.  Beaufort High School offers a freshman academy plus small schools in arts, international studies, communications and technology and the health profession. Coosa Elementary School has a well established reputation for excellence in education and as a result has been either at or over its student capacity almost from the first day its doors were opened in 1998.  This past school year Coosa added a unique aspect to its curriculum — leadership.

With the financial support of a Department of Defense grant Coosa Elementary School (40% of the school’s students have an active duty military parent) is completing their first full year of implementing a three-year school wide leadership program called The Leader in Me. The program is based on the late Dr. Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and designed to “equip the student with the self-confidence and skills needed to thrive in the 21st century economy.”

The first elementary school to attempt integrating the principles espoused by Dr. Covey was the charter school A. B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C., in 1999. The school had been advised to either improve or face being closed. As part of its efforts to improve, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was incorporated into the school as a part of its curriculum. As a result of this innovative approach to early education, in 2006 the school was selected as the top magnet school in the nation. From this experience came The Leader in Me process. It is based on the concept of teaching children, starting at kindergarten, good habits of leadership to include learning accountability, treating others with respect, solving problems creatively, listening to others and the benefits of team work. Coosa Elementary is the first school in Beaufort County to implement the program, the 12th school in South Carolina and one of approximately 1,100 schools internationally.

In an effort to demonstrate the results of the program, the Coosa Elementary School recently hosted a group of community representatives as part of a “Leadership Day”. The students conducted every portion of the two hour program, with the exception of a question and answer period handled by the principal and teachers. The confidence and general conduct of the children was impressive in every respect.

The following basic themes are promoted throughout every aspect of the school year:

• Be proactive (You are in charge)

• Begin with the end in mind (Have a plan)

• Put first things first (Work first then play)

• Think win/win (Strive for mutually beneficial solutions in your relationships)

• Seek first to understand then to be understood (Listen before you talk)

• Synergize (Working together as a team is better)

• Sharpen the saw (Take care of your body by eating right, exercising and getting sleep).

Based on the results of this first year, The Leader in Me program would appear to have the potential to impact, in a very positive way, the long-term conduct of children, teachers and parents. The teachers like it, the parents like it and the children are learning the traits necessary for success in the world in which they will live. Steps are being taken to reinforce the program in the middle and high school.

The use of this program in our school systems to better prepare our youth for the challenges they will face in life could be a real “game changer” and deserves the support of the community.

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