First and second graders at Richmond Academy (Va.) have already applied, interviewed and been hired for their first job. One student was hired to lead the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Another was hired to make sure scuffs on the walls are scrubbed off each day—and has even hired a helper. Students are coming to teachers when they see a problem and asking if a position can be created for them, wanting to take on the responsibility. For many, this concept is like something out of the Twilight Zone, however, it’s becoming the norm at RA.
At the beginning of the school year, staff and faculty at RA adopted The Leader in Me program which draws key components from the popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The process teaches students skills needed for academic success, like critical thinking, goal setting, listening, speaking and self-directed learning.
“Each day, students spend time in their leadership notebooks and talk about how they can make every day count by being kind, following directions, obeying, listening and being safe,” explains Karen Van Ornam, first and second grade teacher. “Students learn about habits that make a difference like being proactive, beginning with the end in mind and finding your voice.” The program extends to all grades, with the goals and habits being similar in nature, but geared appropriately for age groups.
Van Ornam and Nancy Melashenko, principal, agree that the program has the potential to change the culture of a school, as these habits become common verbiage and goals. Right now, RA leadership has committed to assimilate this program for the next three years and hope to become a Lighthouse School, which means the school has fully integrated The Leader in Me into its curriculum and is achieving measurable results.
The Leader in Me program was first discovered by Karen Van Ornam and brought to Melashenko who then arranged to take a team of three teachers to visit another school where it was being implemented. “The results that we saw in the children’s development of values and the ownership of their educational process was amazing and we knew that this program would align ideally with the RA mission and vision for its own students,” said Melashenko.
“Now that we have launched the program, we are excited to see how our students are already stepping up,” says Melashenko, “Used as a structure for achieving goals of academic goals, internalized Christian values and the development of leadership skills, we are confident that the long-term benefits for our students will be great.”