This summer I bought a very good book on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and a workbook by Sean Covey. Later, I discovered that at our school, Russell McDowell Intermediate, our principal, Mrs. Heather Aldrich, had already started a Leadership Program. She has the 7 Habits of Healthy Leadership posters covering a wall which proclaims to: Be Proactive; Begin with the end in mind; Put first things first; Think Win-Win; Seek first to understand, then to be understood; Synergize; and Sharpen the saw. She and some of her staff attended a national conference on Leadership. I expressed interest in attending some of the trainings to share information with other parents and our students. This Leadership Model Program received national recognition for its emphasis on developing leadership in young children. Principal Aldrich says, “It is grounded in the belief that building cooperative relationships and nurturing responsibility, kindness and good judgment is the basis for creating a successful community of learners. By developing the WHOLE child - socially, emotionally, academically and ethically - the program fosters a climate of principle-centered and personal leadership.”
I have also blogged about a “whole child” focus and I was impressed to learn that this was already part of the philosophy here. The school’s website, explains that quarterly, students identify and set their own personal academic goals. “Using organizational tools, data collection, and data analysis practices, children track their progress and growth over the course of the school year. Students also learn social etiquette and develop communication and presentation skills through student-led conferences where students share their data notebooks with parents and loved ones.”
I am the new PTA president there and I suggested that some of the youth attend our PTA board meetings, take a few notes, and present them during the morning news to the school. Our principal loved this idea! I also suggested having students to help with family meals that we will have periodically at school to get parents together while giving them a break from cooking. The students can list nutritional content of the meal and share it at the dinner. We can briefly share other helpful information at that time as well. “As part of a collaboration with the PTA, community members and families are given the opportunity to use book studies and leadership nights to learn about and apply these principles," states Mrs. Aldrich. We are also starting a school garden which will encourage lesson planning that interlace this new venture with curriculum. Students can help and we already have some volunteers who responded to our committee sign up!
Our superintendent, Dr. Susan E. Compton is also very supportive. She encourages others to “Join our administrators, staff, parents, students and the entire community in our efforts to continue ‘Celebrating Success and A Legacy of Excellence’ in this great school system. Education works best when it is a partnership between students, teachers, families and our community!”
I am also blessed to serve as the Northeast Kentucky PTA president and we are planning a Youth Advocacy and Leadership Event, our NEKY YALE! We will include intermediate and middle students to attend part of it, while high school students will attend the day of interactive workshops. We look forward to the volunteers and community partners that will help!
I am also proud that Kentucky was one of the first states to adopt the Common Core Standards and we will include a segment about what this means for parents and teachers at our Parent and Teacher Summit. If the teachers at our new school teach with nearly the quality as our former teacher, Ms. Dana Brown at Russell Primary, then I know we will accomplish great things together!
I serve on some committees with the Kentucky Education Commissioner, Dr. Terry Holliday, and one of our projects was TELL Kentucky: Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning. More than 80% of Kentucky teachers voiced how they perceived their work conditions and how they could be better supported in their constant goal to provide quality education to all students. We are also developing a rubric to aid in appropriately assessing and increasing the effectiveness of teachers using multiple measures.
I am so excited about this school year and we are eager to work with good leaders who recognize the value in further nurturing its staff as well as developing leadership traits in our youth early! Through our school’s Leadership Program and our support as parents and a community, we can also contribute to the character of our students. Character building is very important in our youth and should be exemplified by the teachers and parents. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically - Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
Brenda Drummer Martin has volunteered in many capacities to support schools, heading up organizations like the PTA, and NE Kentucky Association for Gifted Education. She is the 2011 Mom Congress delegate from Kentucky.