Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley
Inspiring Hope, One Kid at a Time
Hailey Elementary is raising leaders
If Ralph Waldo Emerson were still walking around, there’s no doubt that the famous American author and scholar would approve of what’s going on over at Hailey Elementary School.
The school has, after all, apparently adopted two of Emerson’s classic statements: “The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” And, “No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.”
A couple of weeks ago a student from Hailey Elementary came in to the offices here at Sun Valley Magazine. Now, you don’t often get people walking into magazine offices and when they do, the staff is usually hoping they’re bringing donuts.
But this young man strolled confidently in and handed me—the first person he saw, and the one who makes much of his living being a class clown in journalism—a card and politely invited me to attend the school’s Leadership Day. Being a “Yes Man” when it comes to kids (of just about any age) and because he was so brave to walk in and ask, I agreed.
So the following sunny Wednesday, I walked across Old Hailey, following the familiar scent of homemade cupcakes (real or imagined) that I always associate with elementary schools after working at one in New Hampshire for a couple of years.
After being greeted by Principal Tom Bailey, I took a seat inside the gymnasium. It’s the same gym where I used to play basketball on cold Sunday nights a couple of decades ago, only it looked and smelled much better now. I was already impressed.
As high noon struck, the old sheriff of the place, Principal Bailey, moseyed up to the mic and began the festivities.“The focus is all on the kids,” he said, explaining that the school has adapted a program called “The Leader in Me.”
Basically, this school-wide program takes Stephen R. Covey’s bestselling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and adapts it for schools and parents. Their motto sums it up as, “Inspiring greatness, one child at a time.”
After Mrs. Boatwright’s kindergarten class lead the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance, through the use of video and short live speeches, kids (whose names were tough to pick up from the swift speak of youth) from First through Sixth grade explained the seven key habits to a successful life.
1) “Be in charge of yourself,” as one child so eloquently put it. The first habit is to “Be Proactive: I am responsible for my actions and attitudes.”
2) “Set a goal and complete it,” was my favorite explanation for this one. The second habit should be adopted by more politicians, “Begin with the End in Mind: I have a plan.”
3) “You first have to work and then you can play,” one boy said. But the third habit is hard for even most of the adults I know to follow, “Put First Things First: I do the most important priorities first.”
4) “Everybody Can Win” is how a cute gal explained it. The fourth habit may be the most challenging, especially when you’re working with a Yankees fan, “Think Win-Win: I find ways everyone can win.”
5) “Listen before you talk” is what one child advised. The fifth habit is one most parents (and marriage counselors) usually agree with but often find challenging, “Seek to Understand, Then to be Understood: I listen before I talk.”
6) “Work together. With other people. Share,” a couple of kids explained. The sixth one includes a pretty big word for most elementary school kids and light beer drinkers like myself, “Synergize: Working together is better.”
7) “Take care of your body, brain, heart and soul,” as one sweet young gal advised. The seventh habit is also a no brainier that most of us—especially us run-ragged parents—seem to forget, “Sharpen the Saw: I have a balanced life.”
Overall, the seven habits seem like very smart things to be teaching the 500 students at Hailey Elementary. They’re also a great ways to accomplish Principal Bailey’s mission to “bring out the greatness in every kid.”
After spending some time with the future leaders of Hailey Elementary I think I ‘d be delighted to have my two young sons attend the school when they’re old enough. For if they are so lucky, I’m sure they’d be well on their way to following a piece of advice passed on by one of Emerson’s disciples, Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”