Written for my Learning Theories Applied to Instruction and Classroom Management graduate class (EDF 6259; professor Kay Allen) at University of Central Florida on 2015-04-13 (Spring 2015 semester), this assignment gave me the opportunity to read and write about Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as part of my graduate coursework.
Grade Contract: A
1. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
a. Important Concept One: Effective Prioritization:
Covey presents the idea that the activities prioritized by most people are often somewhat trivial or meaningless, yet come with urgent deadlines and social pressure. Similarly, we pressure ourselves to get our “to-do list” done for the day, even when the tasks on it fail to contribute to the “big picture”: our lifelong goals and priorities. Activities that are important, yet not urgent, are where we should place more focus, even at the expense of activities that seem urgent to others. This is because prioritizing vital tasks that relate to our personal mission has better and more important long-range benefits for ourselves and our leadership potential. Most daily planners and email or inbox workflows focus on tasks that are urgent but not important, and while solving such tasks may meet others expectations or make us “feel” busy, in the long run they are inconsequential (Covey, 1989). Leaders may gain the respect of others by confidently refusing requests and assignments that are urgent yet not important, which also frees them up to focus on what really matters. A single step one can take in this direction is to jettison the telephone (or delegate answering it to someone else). A ringing telephone is a highly salient example of an urgent, yet frequently unimportant distraction.
In the classroom, effective prioritization might involve talking more about underlying themes or overarching mathematical concepts and principles. The drill of rote learning might appear to fill the urgent need of improved standardized test performance, yet if you start early in the school year, it is possible that higher-order instruction might result in both improved conceptual understanding and higher test scores.
b. Important Concept Two: Establishing Stewardship Agreements:
Stewardship delegation has a large upfront cost—placing work such as photography or yard work (Covey, 1989) under the control and self-direction of children, for example, requires that both the leader and steward establish guidelines and desired results, as well as leading the steward to take ownership and personally identify with the work. This is applicable to children and adults alike; many corporations and institutions employ “gofer delegation,” where employees are told how to do every task, and never take initiative to develop their own methods. More importantly, they do not feel their work is a part of them (low commitment), and thus are ineffective workers in the long run. Instead, if individuals are given parameters and pitfalls to avoid, while being allowed to develop their own methods to produce the desired results, they will eventually become much more effective due to being self-directed and feeling personally responsible. This form of delegation is much more “hands off” and allows the steward to be his or her own boss, which additionally frees up time for the leader to work on more important activities, such as establishing new stewardship arrangements with other employees.
In the classroom, a stewardship agreement might be presented with regard to children’s binders or notebooks. Surprisingly, when I observed a 5th grade classroom at a low-SES public elementary school in 2011, I saw the teacher placing items in students’ 3-ring binders for them, and even filling out parts of their worksheets. Getting children to manage and take pride in their binders through stewardship delegation entails more work upfront, but has large benefits. Children may become proud of their organization skills and more interested in reviewing the homework and curriculum materials in their binders, and the teacher will not have to micro-manage or worry about these students abusing or losing their binders.
c. Share at least one way in which one or both of the concepts has/have informed you in your professional practice.
Effective prioritization is an ongoing battle for me, but I have felt more apt to work on complex projects ahead of schedule this semester, after listening to Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in audio format. Further, I have passed up many urgent but unimportant requests, such as requests from friends for help with physical labor, copy-editing, or low- or un-paid freelance photography work. In fact, some friends have actually come to expect me to decline helping them over the past two months, and have stopped sending me their urgent requests. While declining urgent but unimportant engagements is but one aspect of Covey’s model, I believe it is an important first step for me. Developing this habit will benefit my career, allow more time for my hobbies, and promote mutually beneficial social relationships.
Covey, S.R. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. Thorndike, ME: G.K. Hall & Co.