Creekside students take Seven Habits program to heart

October 12, 2010

By Christopher Huber

Annie Tang (left), Creekside Elementary School fifth-grader, and teacher Carrie Alexander learn Seven Habits to be effective. Contributed

Fifth-grader Annie Tang likes to play with the neighbors right after school. But since the new school year began at Creekside Elementary School, she has put first things first: homework.

Her attitude didn’t just change out of the blue. Her perspective on work and play, along with hundreds of her schoolmates, has changed since Creekside teachers and administrators introduced them to a new leadership program.

It helps Tang prioritize, she said.

“It’s good because, especially at school, it’s pretty useful,” she said. “It’s easier to be in school.”

The Leader In Me is a program developed by FranklinCovey, which published “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

It uses the same principles, designed originally for adults, and is built into everyday classroom instruction, said Principal Robin Earl.

Creekside is only the fourth school in Washington to adopt the program, said Judy Bowlby, program assistant.

“We can see the change that the children are having,” Earl said.

The idea to implement the relatively new program, first adapted for elementary school children in North Carolina, came after Earl read The Leader In Me as part of her summer research on teacher professional development.

“I read it and said, ‘This is what I believe,’” she said.

The book outlines how schools can integrate core leadership principles, such as setting priorities, working together and being proactive, into the school’s culture and curriculum. The goal is to help students build character and life skills for the 21st century. Tang’s teacher, Carrie Alexander, read the book, too.

“It was life changing,” Alexander said. “If somebody would only have told me this when I was 18 and in college …”

How do they do it? It’s pretty straightforward.

The teacher reads “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” book to the class periodically. The book introduces them to the 7 Habits tree, which illustrates how to use each habit in various situations throughout their day. The book uses child-friendly illustrations and characters in seven separate stories to explain and introduce the habits.

For example, while teaching a math lesson, a teacher will help students work out a problem with a “begin with the end in mind — have a plan” approach. That follows habit No. 2.

“We look at this to meet the needs of the whole child,” Earl said.

Earl and those on the program’s teacher committee said the program appealed to them because it focuses so much student ownership of their schoolwork and life activities. As educators have put much emphasis on developing students’ individual personalities, they have lagged in the area of each person building their own character, Earl said.

“There’s not much placed on character ethic,” Earl said. “I never thought of proactive as being ‘I have a choice in how I respond.’”

The new program will take two to three years to fully implement within the school culture, Bowlby said. But, based on their recent meeting with a FranklinCovey rep, “we are already beyond year one of where other schools want to be,” Earl said.

Just a month into the process, teachers said things are flowing well, with students like Tang picking up on the language and attitude of the seven habits at school and at home.

“I tend to use it a lot,” Tang said.

The whole Creekside staff is staring to use phrases like, “seek first to understand, then to be understood — listen before you talk,” and “be proactive — you’re in charge.”

“Teachers using the language all the time is a start,” said physical education teacher Kris Coleman.

Ultimately, the skill and approach students develop will help them find jobs down the road.

“Those are traits businesses look for,” Coleman said.

Going forward, the teacher committee is planning ways to educate parents about the program, as well as promote the seven habits around school. Not only does the program seem to re-energize the students for learning, but people like Alexander, Bowlby and Earl are ecstatic about the possibilities for the seven habits to transform school communities around Sammamish.

“This isn’t just one more thing we’re all doing,” Bowlby said. “The more people see it, the more everybody will use it.”

Watch videos and learn more about the program here.

The Seven Habits

Habit 1: Be proactive — you’re in charge

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind — have a plan

Habit 3: Put first things first — work first, then play

Habit 4: Think win-win — everyone can win

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood — listen before you talk

Habit 6: Synergize — together is better

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw — balance feels best


Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or Comment at

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