Learning leadership, leaving legacies become part of Bibb schools curriculum

What is ‘The Leader In Me’ program?

Sarah Mayberry, a media specialist at Burdell-Hunt Elementary School, talks on Thursday about the schools "Leader In Me" program that teaches students how to be leaders.
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Sarah Mayberry, a media specialist at Burdell-Hunt Elementary School, talks on Thursday about the schools "Leader In Me" program that teaches students how to be leaders.

The student athlete was feeling grumpy. On top of that, he wasn’t thrilled about being in an art class.

So when his teacher, Lisa Mayfield, took the class down the hall to paint a mural a few months ago, “he didn’t really feel like participating,” she said.

But Mayfield insisted and put the paintbrush in his hand.

Within a few minutes, she said he “started getting really excited about it. He said, ‘Ms. Mayfield, this blue right here, this is my legacy. I’m going to come back one day … 20 years from now.’ ”

The mural on the cinder block walls is meant not only to brighten up the building, but also to give students a sense of ownership because “ownership and leadership kind of go hand-in-hand,” Mayfield said.

Plus leaving a legacy is what “The Leader in Me” character-building program is all about.

The program, implemented in 21 Bibb schools but new to Howard Middle, is based on Stephen Covey’s 1989 self-improvement book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

The seven habits are as follows: 1) Be proactive 2) Begin with the end in mind 3) Put first things first 4) Think win-win 5) Seek first to understand then to be understood 6) Synergize 7) Sharpen the saw.

Earlier this month, the Charles H. Jones Foundation donated $1 million to help expand the program and continue training teachers to implement it.

Now, students are delivering morning announcements, being hall monitors, taking roll and operating the school spirit store.

“It’s really taken a lot of stuff out of the teacher’s hands,” basketball coach and career development teacher Gavin Gordon said. “We really take it step by step … and really break down what it is and what we’re about. Really and truly, being proactive is like the main thing that we’re trying to teach because it’s really, really easy to be reactive and emotional instead of being proactive.”

Gordon was shocked at how students have embraced the program, he said. In fact, he actually learned a few things by teaching the tenets. No. 5 challenged him to be a better listener and teacher.

“I am a people-pleaser, and I’m also somebody who thinks I have all the answers,” he admitted. “That’s really helped me with my students this year, seeking to understand where they’re coming from before I try to be understood with my rules and regulations and stuff.”

The program is in its third year at Burdell-Hunt Elementary School in east Macon.

Fourth-grade teacher Brandi Edwards asked her students to share “what kind of weather” they brought with them to school and why.

Joshua Pettigrew, 10, said he brought sunny weather “because I’ve achieved some of my goals, and I’m trying to be the best I can.”

“So, he’s being what, y’all” Edwards asked the class.

“Proactive” the students said in unison.

Fourth-grader Ameena Rahaman Na’Riahdean, 10, said she was asked in a survey last year about what “The Leader In Me” program means to her.

“I said it means doing the right thing even when nobody’s watching,” she said. “And always be a leader.”