In 2014, Belleville Christian School (BCS) began investing in a whole-school transformation model called The Leader in Me.
“It’s about developing character in children,” said BCS Director of Governance, Ed Petrusma. “We were feeling that as much as we have a really good school climate and culture, we wanted more for our children—for them to understand that they were leaders themselves.”
It all started in 2013, when Petrusma and BCS staff began reading The Leader in Me book, written by Sean Covey. The group studied it together for an entire year, before implementing the process last summer.
The Leader in Me focuses on seven habits: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think ‘win-win’, seek first to understand then to be understood, “synergize” (work together) and sharpen the saw (achieve balance).These themes are drawn into instructional practice and learning at the school, serving as the basis of a dynamic leadership development for both staff and students.
Throughout this past year Petrusma has been encouraged by how students have responded to the process.
“They recognize that they can take ownership of their own learning as they’re sharing with others about who they are,” he said.
This was especially evident to him in November, when BCS hosted its first student led conference.
“Every child from junior kindergarten to grade 8 had their own leadership binder and were able to share a twenty minute presentation about what they were accomplishing. They had their own personal goals, their own understanding of why they’re at BCS, their own ‘wigs’ (wildly important goals). It’s all streamlined.”
During the upcoming Leadership Day on May 7th students will have yet another opportunity to share the leadership skills they’ve been honing this year. And, their audience will likely be quite diverse. Twenty teachers from a public school have expressed interest in attending the event, said Petrusma. Leaders from the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) and Edifide, an organization for Christian teachers in Ontario, have been invited. It’s also possible that local dignitaries, MPS, MPPS, or even the mayor will come out.
Although teachers are helping students prepare for the conference in advance, the kids will be the ones in charge of the day.
“We step back as staff” said Petrusma. “Students look after sound, serve breakfast and tour guests around classrooms.”
Each classroom will emphasize one of the seven habits, giving students the opportunity to explain how one (or more) of those habits has impacted their development this year.
BCS staff have studied the seven habits extensively too—and thought about which ones are relevant for them in their work. Petrusma noted that he often goes back to habit five: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. In other words, listen before you talk.
“I have a wrist band to remind me,” he said.
Although The Leader in Me is self reflective in nature Petrusma explained that BCS’s implementation of the model is anchored by a Christ centred approach to education—something that’s always permeated curriculum and culture at the school. Without that foundation, the process can easily have a “me only” focus, he noted.
Recently, some of that “me-focus” was “shaved off”, he said, when grade 8 students put their heads together to summarize the school’s mission statement in just four words.
The phrase they came up with? Christian leaders growing community.
It’s an idea that clearly reflects BCS’s communal bent toward leadership. As the school moves in this direction and commits to a transformation model used by over 2000 schools internationally, it still seeks to honour its own vision. Belleville Christian School is a place where the “we” is honoured alongside the “I” and students are invited to follow Christ’s example as they grow in character and in confidence.
For more information about Belleville Christian School’s May 7th Leadership Day, visit: http://www.bellevillechristianschool.ca/leader-in-me/