Ector Middle School adopts ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens’

Ector Middle School students teaching their peers about leadership through “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” has fostered confidence on the campus and helped reduce behavior referrals.
Eighth-grade social studies teacher Alejandra Garcia said the 7 Habits, an approach to solving personal and professional problems, has been in place at Ector since December, but the school has been implementing it since August.
Garcia said the teachers instruct students on the 7 Habits and the students teach it to the rest of the sixth through eighth-grade campus. The teachers participated in a book study of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” by Sean Covey, so it is being infused throughout the school, she added.
Many of the teachers have started using the wording in the book, as well, encouraging students to be proactive instead of reactive.
Principal Kendra Herrera said there were about 2,000 behavior referrals at this time last year and as of the week of Feb. 20, it was down to 907. Herrera added that using the 7 Habits started long before she got to Ector. Ector County Independent School District moved from junior highs to middle schools a couple of years ago, which moved sixth-graders from elementary to middle school and ninth-graders to high school.
“… When we were going to go into the middle school concept, we visited a middle school in El Paso called Eastwood Middle School and they pretty have much have the same kind of set up that we do here. … We’re just modeling after that and making it our own,” Herrera said.
She added that Ector has incorporated the 7 Habits into its turnaround plan, which is required as part of the campus being on improvement required status under state accountability ratings.
Herrera said the teachers have bought into the concept.
“They really enjoy watching our student leaders teach their kids and watching the change listening to the kids use the verbiage; that type of thing. The kids are becoming leaders and they are taking ownership of their own behavior. They’re helping other kids take ownership of their behavior. …,” Herrera added.
Garcia said there are currently 45 student leaders.
“We’re actually going to start our recruitment process here very soon,” Garcia added. “We have seventh and eighth graders right now, so we’re going to recruit for next year and the current seventh graders are going to be the leaders of the leaders next year.”
The student leaders meet with Garcia and eighth-grade English teacher Ciclalik “Cici” Lopez during the Eagles Nest intervention period twice a week. About twice a month, they present to the rest of the school after they’ve talked about each habit.
Student leaders then devise their own lessons and interpretation of the habit and teach it to fellow youngsters.
Once about every four weeks, teachers take a week to instruct on the 7 Habits.
“This week, we’re focusing on Rachel’s challenge, which is something that kind of goes in with the 7 Habits about being nice to each other,” Herrera said.
Garcia said teachers were asked at the beginning of the year to nominate students they thought would be great leaders for the school. They didn’t necessarily have to be top-notch students, but youngsters teachers felt would be a positive role model.
“That’s probably the way we’re going to keep doing it, by teacher nominations,” Garcia said.
Some of the students include Ja’Syia Curry, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, Melina Lozoya, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, Nataly Pinedo, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, Zachary Rivera, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, Leo Lopez, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, and Abraham Hernandez, a 14-year-old eighth-grader.
Hernandez said the program helps sixth-graders improve their ways for the future.
“Like Ms. Herrera was saying, we’ve got less referrals and I think we can get less referrals by teaching sixth graders and then just keep on going and going,” Hernandez said. “You never know: We could wind up with 500 by the end of the year.”
Pinedo said she thinks the 7 Habits have helped students in many different ways, not just in school, but in life. The program teaches youngsters how to view things from different perspectives and think before they speak.
“I feel like it shows many students they’re not alone in this; like they may have problems, but everyone has them, too, and we can help them through whatever they’ve got,” Pinedo said.
Rivera added that students tend to respond to their peers more than teachers because they’re so close in age.
Having to develop lesson plans and instruct other students also has given the student leaders a taste of teaching.
“We kind of understand now how hard it is to set up a whole lesson plan and they do it every day,” Pinedo said.
Garcia added that the students debrief after every session to see what they could have done differently, make better or about any difficulties they had in the classroom, such as classroom management.
“That’s where they see the teacher side of it,” Garcia said.