The lunch-time chat between kindergarten students Morgan Harper and Ian Rogers was all about good things. Like how lucky they were to be dining with their teacher in the quiet of the media center, which was decorated to the hilt with blue balloons and colorful tissue paper centerpieces; how their parents were so proud when they got the letter from the school saying their children had been selected for the special honor. "My mom said she's going to keep it forever," 5-year-old Ian said with a shy smile. Turns out, luck had nothing to do with anything. Good character earned these kids a place at the table. Things like being responsible for your own actions and doing what's right even when no one is looking — just a couple of traits that make for a good person and a great leader.
"I know I can always count on Ian," said his teacher, Rochelle Griffin. "I know I can always depend on him to do what he's supposed to be doing."
Those kind of sentiments were celebrated throughout the Leadership Luncheon held recently for about 110 students selected for their good deeds at Moon Lake Elementary.
There was Skylar Bohm, 9, who was honored by her fourth-grade teacher Celisse DiPaolo because "she always thinks about other people"; Marcelle Lewis, 10, who "is always pro-active and helps get others to do the right thing." And Connor Jones, 9, who's "the first to be a good friend."
Students at Moon Lake Elementary have been hearing a lot about these admirable traits for awhile now as the school enters the second year of "The 7 Habits" program.
Based on Sean Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, the program seeks to create a community of leaders within the school, said Tricia Ellis, a teacher of students with autism who helped organize the lunch-time event and serves on the school's leadership committee. That group first met last year to talk about the culture of the school and address the high rate of staff turnover, Ellis said. One of the solutions was to highlight and encourage the positive actions of students while outlining some admirable traits worth adopting — things like being in charge of yourself, having a plan, keeping your body and mind sharp, working together, listening with your ears and your heart.
"We've done a bunch of things around the school to change the dynamic and bring the seven habits to Moon Lake," Ellis said.
About 40 families attended special parenting night to learn about the program and how they might implement the habits at home. Lessons have been reinforced in the classrooms and on the school's morning news.
"It's been great watching them develop the seven habits and understand what they are," Ellis said. "It's important for all of us, not just the kids, to remember it, too."
Students also have the opportunity to take part in special clubs, held each Friday afternoon. Activities include origami, sign language, sports — things that can enrich what they can do at school and perhaps foster a love for school and learning, Ellis said.
The latest addition is the luncheon, which will be celebrated quarterly.
"The kids get to eat at a table and enjoy conversation and have some special time with their teacher. They get a cookie and sign their name on a banner that will be hung outside the media (center) so everyone can see it," Ellis said, adding that this is different from the typical Student of the Month celebrations, which were held so regularly they lost their luster.
"These aren't always the kids who stand out academically, but they deserve to be honored," she said. "These are the kids who are trying their best and doing the right thing. We want to show the kids that we are united; that everybody's proud of them — not just their classroom teacher."