Creating leaders for tomorrow at Truman Elementary
Students listen to their teacher at Truman Elementary School during one of its “house parties” where kids participate in different activities. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
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Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, and for students at Truman Elementary School that’s the message taught.
Truman Elementary held its annual Leadership Day assembly on Jan. 26 where the school highlighted its journey of learning and leadership. The event included remarks from Principal Jared Broderick as well as performances from each grade level.
“It’s a good program and the kids really enjoy it. It’s good to have a central purpose for our whole school and what we’re all working towards,” said Lauralee Gardner.
In addition to being a teacher at the school, Gardner is the chairperson of the Lighthouse Committee, made up of various students, teachers and administrators who gather twice a month to talk about implementing leadership in the school.
“We need leaders, more so now than ever, so (it’s) helping students to see that and be willing to step up,” Broderick said.
Truman’s leadership program draws from a book called “The Leader in Me,” intended to be a school transformation process integrating leadership principles into the elementary school curriculum.
Those principles are utilized in the form of seven habits, similar to author Stephen Covey’s famous book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
The seven habits used at Truman include: be proactive, have a plan, work first then play, think win-win, listen before you talk, synergize and taking care of yourself.
Gardner said it’s supposed to help improve students’ grades, citizenship and behavior. She added it changes students’ focus from thinking about themselves to how everyone can benefit, a win-win.
“It’s more of a shared thing so they take responsibility for making the best outcome whatever situation it is,” Gardner said. “I think it really helps kids develop those leadership skills that will help them in life.”
Words from those seven habits are plastered throughout the school in classrooms and hallways, like “synergize” which Broderick said is bringing everyone’s strengths together to have a “product greater than your own.”
“It really does provide a framework and common vocabulary for us as we are working with students trying to teach them social skills,” or to initiate conversations about conflict resolution, he said.
Three times a year the school will hold “house parties” where students are divided up doing different activities in classrooms. Activities serve as team building exercises whether its students providing direction to a different blindfolded student or kids having their wrists tied to one another and building a house out of plastic cups.
“We’ve structured it such that they can find success in that leadership role,” Broderick said.
Everything is done to improve students’ leadership capabilities.
“They’re given small opportunities for leadership and they become more comfortable with that, more accustomed with that, so as they get older and more (responsibility) is placed upon them, they’re able to do it rather than shy away from it,” Broderick said.
Truman’s leadership theme is prevalent throughout the school year. One teacher from each grade nominates a student every week who is exemplifying those seven habits. Those rewarded get a certificate and free kids’ meal to Texas Roadhouse.
Students chosen for leader of the week also enjoy a leader lunch with Broderick for the month they were chosen. Lunch is typically donated by restaurants such as Arctic Circle.
Gardner said the Lighthouse Committee will now turn their attention to making Truman an idle-free school.
“We want to clean up the air, we work on recycling, we work on a lot of things to make it a better place,” Gardner said.