A unique blend

Quail Hollow Middle students will form a unique collaboration next year when the school becomes the only leadership and Paideia magnet program in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The school will combine The Leader in Me program with the Paideia method. The Leader in Me teaches leadership and life skills using principles from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Paideia promotes active learning through Socratic seminars and comes from the Greek word for the holistic upbringing of a child.

"The Leader in Me will be our operating system, the foundation for everything we do," said Principal Rachael Neill. "Paideia takes that leadership philosophy into all elements of school."

The program receives students through magnet/school-options lottery assignments as well as neighborhood attendance-zone assignments. All students receive the same magnet-theme instruction. Feeder schools to Quail Hollow next year will be Myers Park Traditional, Smithfield, Sterling, Pineville and Endhaven elementary schools.

Some CMS schools are using The Leader in Me program and it is perhaps more familiar than the Paideia philosophy. In Socratic seminars, teachers choose a text for student discussion and their role is to ask questions, said Kristen Wawer, a teacher and humanities multi-classroom leader. Texts can include poems and speeches but lessons may also analyze a painting or explore a science or math problem.

QuailHollow.M_inside pic.jpgStudents sit facing their peers and everyone must contribute prior to the spontaneous discussion, which leads to an exploratory writing product. Wawer said students get to know each other through the discussion and that those who struggle or have disabilities are also valuable members of the conversation.

"Paideia leverages the idea that students learn best from each other and should be challenged at a high level, no matter what their background is," Wawer said. "It melds with leadership as students learn to self-regulate their roles in the discussion. It can be awkward at first, but we all strive for a supportive classroom culture where they can share."

Neill said the leadership and Paideia combination made sense for Quail Hollow because it reinforces existing goals to benefit all students and take them to the next level. She said the school is highly diverse, which The Leader in Me and the National Paideia Center consider a required component for most successful outcomes.

"Our students truly get to learn from each other, which makes this a perfect marriage," Neill said.

Neill said she now sees seminar topics all around her and that the school has already held a parent seminar on the 12 Paideia principles.

"It was really inspiring to hear the parents lead the discussion and for them to have the experience," Neill said. "Many of them had never met each other but bringing their voices together fostered community pretty quickly."