If you visit Bankhead Middle School, students will tell and show you how to become one.
Amber Freeman, principal at Bankhead, said her school is in its first year of implementing the “Leader In Me” program with students, and so far it is creating a noticeable difference.
“It’s a process that a school has to go through to establish that they are a ‘Leader In Me’ school. It shows kids that they can be the leader of something,” Freeman said. “... It lets them see that they are the leader of themselves, that they can make the right choices and do things that are positive to influence others.”
Based on Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the initiative is to transform and improve schools by focusing on the seven habits: be proactive (you’re in charge), begin with the end in mind (have a plan), put first things first (work first, then play), think win-win (everyone can win), seek first to understand, then to be understood (listen before you talk), synergize (together is better), sharpen the saw (balance feels best).
Bankhead is one of a number of schools within the county that are now labeled as a “Leader In Me” school.
Currently, Bankhead Middle, Carbon Hill Elementary/Jr. High, Curry Elementary and Sumiton Elementary/Middle schools are the ones participating in the program within the Walker County Schools district.
Memorial Park, T.R. Simmons and West Jasper elementary schools also are “Leader In Me” schools in the Jasper City Schools district.
Jasper City’s Maddox Middle and Walker High schools have implemented “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” program into their schools as well.
Students are responding to the leadership initiative in a positive way. Freeman said she sees a huge decrease in the number of discipline problems among the students.
“They use the language that they’re taught in their ‘Leader In Me’ lessons. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. They have different sayings throughout their lessons they’ll use,” Freeman explained. “If it’s a conflict they’re in, they’ll use the strategies that the teachers go over with them to resolve the conflict. Instead of not hearing what that other person has to say, they’ll talk through it and resolve the issue with just them two.”
The “Leader In Me” program is funded through federal monies, which is used for professional development for teachers and to purchase supplies for students at the school.
Freeman says the program helps the kids to become more self-motivated to where their grades start improving which leads to better test scores.
An inaugural student-led “Leader In Me” awards’ day will be held at Bankhead Middle School Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 9 a.m. Freeman, who has 18 years in education, said the awards’ ceremony will give her and her staff a better idea of how well the program is going.
A lot of time has been invested in the “Leader In Me” program.
Taking a tour through the school, one will notice the several paintings and phrases painted on the walls in the hallways, lunchroom and even bathrooms.
Quotes such as “The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you,” and “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right,” cover entire walls throughout the building.
Students receive weekly lessons during their Excel class each Wednesday.
During other days of the week, students enjoy going to the computer lab for Compass Learning one day and club/activity time on another day. Each Excel class lasts 50 minutes.
“Someone that’s always made bad grades or has a horrible home life, they realize that they don’t have to settle for that. That they can do something about it because they can be the leader. Taking responsibility for their actions, doing positive things and doing the right things,” Freeman said. “... It’s something they will carry for the rest of their lives.”