CONCORD, N.C. – W.M. Irvin Elementary School students performed a routine to greet visitors, introduced themselves, spoke publically and took county leaders and parents on tours throughout the school during the first Leadership Day on Wednesday.

It was the culminating event after the first year of the school’s The Leader in Me approach. The approach is based on Sean Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids,” which is similar to Stephen R. Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

The seven habits are 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.

Before the academic year began, the school had motivational messages, unique hallway names and spirited bulletin boards to introduce the new approach.

Each day this year has started with a morning meeting, during which the teachers discuss one of the habits. Students have data notebooks to record their grades and behavior and their goals for those areas.

There are also leadership clubs for students to participate in if they did all of their homework and did not have discipline referrals during the month.

The school had all of these efforts on display for about 30 visitors on Wednesday.

The Irvin Steppers performed just outside the school, and several students inside the school opened the door and greeted and escorted visitors to the media center for a presentation.

During the presentation, the chorus/dance clubs performed the morning announcement song, the Actors’ Theater Club shared a video, and several students spoke about the habits.

Fifth-grader Tahirah Tucker said that, because of the approach, she has gotten into less fights with her siblings at home.

Students then led the visitors on classroom tours to showcase Eagle Time, during which classes focus on the habits; the students’ data notebooks; and classroom instruction. After the tours, there was a question and answer session.

Fifth-grader Riley Elliott led took school board member Rob Walter; Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce and Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation; and Cherie Jzar, community outreach coordinator for the City of Concord, on a tour.

Elliott said she loves the leadership approach.

“It’s really helped me to be better at school and be better at home,” Elliott said. “My favorite habit is number six, synergize, because I like working with others, and I get along with others.”

She said her second favorite habit is putting first things first because she likes doing her work first and then playing.

In addition to the classroom tours, each of the leadership clubs had displays in the hallways and presented about them to the visitors.

Coughlin stopped during the tour to check out the Lego Club.

“Lego Club! No way!” Coughlin said. “I am so coming to school here.”

Irvin Parent Teacher Organization President Bobby Jones said the Leadership Day is a great way to be able to showcase the school and this new approach.

“I think it’s going to give us an edge by these kids taking ownership,” Jones said.

School board Chairman Blake Kiger said it was “an impressive day.”

“I didn’t realize we had this many clubs at this level,” Kiger said. “It gives them a chance to plug into something they enjoy.”

Coughlin said it is amazing how pervasive the approach is, especially with it being the first year.

Irvin Principal Lauren Finley said this has been a great learning year.

“I hope (the visitors) see that our kids have skills that go beyond the classroom. … Our kids have more confidence. They’re not afraid to talk to adults, and they’re starting to see how these habits weave into their lives and how they can use them even at this age,” Finley said.

The staff will go through training later this year to begin the process of being an exemplary school in terms of the seven habits, Finley said. Irvin is also going to try to do a book study during the summer and supply parents with the materials, she added.


Contact reporter Jessica Groover Pacek: 704-789-9152

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