If Clarke Elementary Vice Principal Randy Bolton sees two students have a tense interaction in the school hallway, he knows there’s a quick way to fix the issue proactively.
Many times, all he has to say is, “Hey guys, can we think win-win?”
“Does that mean they always can solve it themselves? No. But, I’ve had a number of times where there was probably going to be some type of an altercation, and just me reminding them thinking ‘win-win,’ they talk, they turn and they sit down, and I go on,” Bolton said.
The “win-win” verbage is from The Leader in Me process that is instituted at Clarke Community Elementary School.
This is the third year of the school using The Leader in Me.
What is The Leader in Me?
The Leader in Me is a whole-school transformation model that acts like the operating system of a computer — it improves the performance of all other programs. Based on the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” The Leader in Me equips students with the self-confidence and skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy and society.
The Leader in Me is not an event to attend or curriculum; it’s ubiquitous leadership development, meaning it’s taking place everywhere and all the time.
It’s not a 30-minute program students have to sit through every week. It’s a process of effective thinking and doing that students can enact in their daily lives.
Signs of improvement
According to Bolton, since instituting The Leader in Me process, overall, discipline referrals are down.
“Our attendance has never really been a huge issue when you look at the big picture — the 97 percent, 98 percent,” he said. “Chronic absences are the ones I like to look at. If you have five kids that miss 20 or more days, that’s a lot of days kids are missing. So, the big picture, we’re doing good.”
At Clarke Elementary, every student has a leadership binder where they track their own data.
Bolton said his wife teaches title reading and she has had a number of students who have really improved with their reading skills.
“Not only do they track their data, they set their own goals, and then they put down two or three things they’re going to do to achieve their goal,” he said.
An important factor of The Leader in Me is the common language children, teachers and adults can use with “The 7 Habits.”
“So, it doesn’t matter what classroom I’m in, we’re going to use the terms ‘being proactive,’ ‘beginning with the end in mind,’ ‘thinking win-win,’ and ‘putting first things first,’” Bolton said. “That makes our message clear and concise. It’s not going to be confusing.”
There is also a family and community component to The Leader in Me where the proactive thinking works at home or businesses, and can make it easier on the parents or employers.
In a world where people are dominated by their cell phones and constantly looking down, Bolton said it’s important to show children the value of shaking hands, looking someone directly in the eye and speaking clearly to them when introducing themselves.
Proactive, not reactive
As a vice principal, Bolton said it’s necessary for him to be a model of how to be proactive and not reactive.
He said he’s had situations where a student is “pushing his buttons” and he felt himself becoming reactive. By taking a moment to step out and clear his head, Bolton said he can come back to the student with a proactive manner.
“They’re like, ‘Mr. Bolton, you were ready to blow up and become reactive.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I did,’” Bolton said. “They’re like, ‘Wow, if I would’ve done that at recess, I wouldn’t be here.’”
By each taking a moment to think things through, it’s possible for the student and adult to be effective and help each other discover the root and solution to the problem, Bolton said.
How long is The Leader in Me going to continue at Clarke? The answer is forever.
“That’s why it’s not a program. It’s the principal,” Bolton said.