cover image for podcast episode Best Books to Transform Your Teaching Part 1

Best Books to Transform Your Teaching Part 1 - Stephen Covey's 7 Habits

podcast Oct 04, 2023

Best Books for Teachers

As an author and an avid reader, I'm obsessed with books. What if the books with the greatest power to transform your teaching and relationships with students, parents, admins, and co-workers aren't books about education?

In this blog post, I dive into Stephen Covey's masterpiece, 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.' This body of work opened my eyes, changed my thought process, and made me comfortable discussing my feelings and challenges. It was my "gateway drug" into all things personal development.

Even though I was introduced to the book more than a decade before becoming an educator, its advice has stood the test of time and, in many ways, profoundly affected my teaching.

What Are Dr. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?

Here is a brief overview of the seven habits.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Description: This habit emphasizes taking responsibility for your own actions, decisions, and life. Rather than blaming external factors for your circumstances, "Be Proactive" encourages individuals to focus on what they can control and take action accordingly.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Description: This habit is about setting long-term goals and developing a mission statement that guides daily actions and decisions toward achieving these objectives. Knowing your end goals helps to orient your activities and provides a framework for making better choices in life.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Description: This habit stresses prioritizing tasks that bring you closer to your ultimate life goals over urgent but unimportant tasks. It involves effective time management and discipline in aligning your day-to-day actions with broader objectives.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Description: This habit promotes seeking mutually beneficial solutions in interpersonal interactions. "Think Win-Win" encourages an abundance mindset, helping people seek solutions where all parties involved can benefit rather than approaching interactions as win-lose propositions or compromises where no-one really gets what they wanted.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Description: This habit highlights the value of empathetic listening when interacting with others. Before putting forth your own viewpoint, it’s crucial to genuinely understand where the other person is coming from, which in turn creates a platform for mutual understanding and problem-solving.

Habit 6: Synergize

Description: This habit focuses on the power of teamwork and building strong, collaborative relationships with others. "Synergize" is about realizing that the sum of a well-functioning team is greater than the individual contributions, capitalizing on the diverse strengths and perspectives of each team member.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Description: This final habit is about ongoing self-renewal and improvement. "Sharpen the Saw" suggests regularly investing time in renewing and improving yourself, addressing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions to maintain a balanced, holistic well-being.

How Focusing on the 7 Habits Reduce Teacher Stress and Make You More Effective as an Educator

Let's dive into some of these habits and see how they apply in the classroom and on campus.

Habit one essentially speaks to breaking out of the victim mentality. There is so much in education that is challenging. We can't fix all of the issues and waste so much emotional and mental energy if we constantly dwell on what isn't going right and what is out of our control. When we focus on positively impacting students and creating a vibrant, inclusive learning environment in our classroom, we are more effective and less stressed. As you may know, the "C" in my ECHO Framework for Educators is all about "focusing on what we can control."

Habit two is all about having a "compass" to help guide our priorities when things get crazy. Many school districts have a mission statement. I always talk in terms of creating your personal compass, or North Star, to help screen out all the "noise" and remember that my path is always the same - student success.

Habit three has been a long-term work of refinement in my life - prioritizing and separating what is truly important from what is urgent. I find many e-mails, reports, and "data collection" that teachers must drop everything and prioritize often support someone else's agenda or result from poor planning from other people. When I was in the business world, deleting or delegating these tasks was easier. As teachers, there are very few people to whom we can delegate. If I'm honest, there are many items of "busy work" that I decided not to do. My idea was often that someone would send me a reminder email if it were crucial. It was always shocking to me how infrequently that ever happened. In many cases, what was needed from me wasn't so urgent or essential after all.

Habits four and five are all about communication and mindset around creating collaborative and positive outcomes. Imagine how more pleasant and effective union negotiations, IEP meetings, and even departmental and grade span team meetings would be if everyone adopted the mindset that everyone could get their needs met.

And without wanting to sound too braggy, I know for sure that one of the reasons I have had so few "issues" working with challenging parents over the years is my habit of defusing situations by asking questions to clarify and truly understand their concerns before ever coming off as defensive and wanting to respond with "my side of the story." These were all habits that I made a priority to practice after being introduced to "The 7 Habits of HIghly Effective People."

Practicing habit six, "synergize," doesn't just apply to the adults on campus working together to achieve good things; it should also be the foundation of collaborative learning in the classroom. Probably, you already know how to put students together in groups that allow everyone's talents and gifts to shine and create a team greater than the sum of its parts. That's a natural part of being an effective teacher. Now you know there's a fancy word for it.

And habit number seven, constantly challenging ourselves to learn new things, is an important part of authentic self-care. Not only do we want to invest in keeping our brains sharp, but ideally, we should develop new hobbies and skill sets that have nothing to do with education. This helps maintain a healthier work-life balance and avoid burnout.

The Importance of Developing Habits

Just like you can't expect to be rocking that beach body after eating one salad or doing one abdominal crunch, you can't expect to transform your life experience if you try these strategies once. They need to become unconscious habits and ways of operating in the world. So, while they may seem "simple," consistently integrating them into your life is not necessarily easy. However, I truly believe that implementing these seven habits can help you effectively navigate complex challenges with ease and less stress and lead a more fulfilled life inside and outside the classroom.

If you've never read 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ' or need a quick refresher, you can find the book at any retailer or (old school!) you could borrow it from the library.

For immediate information on programs based on Dr. Covey's work on principle-centered living and leadership, you can visit:



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