Cartersville High School
Watch the video below and read the case study below to see how Habitudes has helped their students and educators.
Marc Feuerbach, the Principal for Cartersville High School shares how Habitudes helped create a positive school culture:
What challenges were you facing and goals you were trying to meet?
We started to see a need to become really proactive in teaching our kids leadership skills. It’s not that every kid is going to be the CEO of a company or a president of the United States, but every child can take responsibility for their own lives. Kids face more challenges today than they probably faced fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five years ago. So that made us ask ourselves, “How can we be proactive in that approach of showing them a way where they can at least lead themselves well?” A lot of kids today can get words of wisdom or advice from the internet. We want to make sure that some of that is good, because probably some of that’s not so good. So what can we do to be proactive in teaching self-leadership skills? That was really our desire and reasoning behind it. In today’s society, you see less and less ownership of things. In reality, that’s not a good thing. We need to own what we do; we need to own where we’re going; we need to own those things. So we are trying to teach that self-ownership piece.
What were some of the objectives or goals you set forth for Habitudes?
We want to see all of our students consistently make good choices. That involves work ethic, discipline, grades, etc. We have great kids, and I hope we can continue to grow to see a campus where students consistently serve each other and care for each other.
We had a deep desire to be intentional. If we’re going to do something in advisement, there should be a purpose to it. At the end of the day, what are we going to hang our hat on? Advisement is about advising kids with their class schedules and all those kinds of things, but let’s go a little deeper. How can we increase that capacity within our students to lead themselves well and serve others?
Why use Habitudes?
Today we live in a world of pictures; we live in a world of images. We knew being able to teach a leadership principle with an image and then to facilitate a conversation around that would be impactful and personal for kids today. That’s why we ended up going with Habitudes.
How has Habitudes helped...
One tangible outcome has been our hallways. I have seen more kids hold a door for those behind them; it happened to me this morning. Or a kid asked me how I was doing before I asked him how he was doing. Habitudes is making a difference. The reason we stayed with the whole campus program, and the reason we’ve done it again this year, is because we want Habitudes to be part of our culture. When I talk about the Habitude, Indian Talking Stick, I want an eighteen-year-old to know what we’re talking about it, just like a fourteen-year-old. They’re both students here at this school, so they should both have the same idea of what we’re talking about.
I did see an increase in student involvement last year and we have had more requests for new clubs to start.
In regards to the discipline infractions we see, we saw an 11% decrease from the year before Habitudes to the year we implemented it. I believe Habitudes has had a part to play in that.
I also asked one of my teachers and a few students this question and here’s their responses:
Teacher: Habitudes affords me the opportunity to build deeper relationships with my students. The character-driven lessons are extremely relatable for both myself and my students. Almost every lesson speaks to areas that everyone could stand some improvement. I try to be very transparent with them about my personal experiences and even current struggles. As I speak, usually it makes them feel comfortable and allows them the opportunity to discuss their experiences with everyone. Even if they choose not to verbally discuss their experiences, they always have their journals to record their thoughts and consider the topics presented. These conversations with students during advisement—as well as conversations after advisement— whether in the halls, at a football game, or anywhere are often related to topics and discussions that began during Habitudes. The lessons offer guidance and reminders for the students (and myself) in striving to be better human beings in general. We all want this—for our careers, our relationships, and for our lives.
Student: Habitudes means a lot. It tries to make you become a better person. Like one part of the book…it talks about being a good listener and a host. You have to hear before you speak. You just can’t start talking right away. That plays a big part in my life. Before I changed, I used to talk over people and never let them talk first. I never wanted to hear out other people and what they had going on. But now I take my time and listen to what people have for me. The book is just about how you should live your life a better way. Everybody isn’t out to get me…that is what I used to think. But the book showed me that for you to become successful you have to go through certain steps to become better.
Student: Habitudes makes me think about things before taking action because others have different points and opinions. It teaches students how to become a better person by the examples it gives. If someone listens and actually goes by the book, they would be a better person and understand things more.
I can think of a specific student. She really went through a tough, tough, time personally—the death of a parent. I won’t go into the details but we saw Habitudes help her be able to take a step back from what she was dealing with personally and get help with how to cope during that very difficult time. I remember speaking to her last year and she shared with me how it helped through that time.
The simplicity of Habitudes is huge. I don’t mean simplicity in a negative way. When you can take an image and put a story behind it and facilitate conversation around it, that is impactful. Many times we forget that image piece and images drive the way we think today. It just helps drive things home.
Also regarding the content… it goes back to what I had originally said. Our job in education is to care passionately and deeply about kids. But possibly even more so thirty years from now, because what we’re doing now is impacting them. Their future families, their future communities twenty or thirty years from now. We need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of teaching kids how to work together. How to fight through challenges and really how to continue to lead themselves through easy times and difficult times and bring others along with them.
Nebraska Department of Education
Orange Lutheran High School - Orange, CA
National FFA Organization
Mill Creek High School & Duluth High School
In an interview with Jason Lane, the Principal of Mill Creek High School and Former Principal of Duluth High School, he revealed:
"I have worked in K-12 education throughout my career starting as a teacher and coach, and then in administrative positions. Since 2008, I have served as a principal at two different high schools. In both of these schools, I saw similar issues:
- Disengaged students who were not respectful to adults, did not respond well to instruction, and seemed uninterested in school.
- Teachers who had poor connections and relationships with students.
These issues needed to change in order for our students, teachers, and school to succeed. We needed to teach students about the importance of character, leadership and healthy communication with adults. I wanted our students to graduate from high school able to make wise decisions based on self-respect and a vision for their future.
After hearing about Habitudes and learning how it has benefited other schools, we decided to implement the program. Within a short amount of time, I began to notice a difference. Conversations that happened in the classroom and in the hallways literally went from students having disrespectful behavior to see them opening doors for each other and their teachers as well as saying “thank-you” and “please”. It was a light switch that flipped on for them. Habitudes has been an invaluable tool to help reframe the conversations we have with our students on leading themselves, leading in school and what is expected from them."
Jason Lane reports several measurable results from using Habitudes including:
- At Duluth High School
- Increased 9th grade retention rate in one year from 20% of students dropping out to 10%.
- At Mill Creek High School:
- Student leadership team grew from 30 students to over 100 in 3 months.
One of the biggest things that Habitudes has helped with is preparing our students to be career and college ready upon graduation. Habitudes helped each student become a better person and have a big picture perspective. The benefit to teachers has been significant as well. They consistently tell me they are having more conversations with students that are meaningful and have impact. Habitudes has been a game changer.
- Student leadership team grew from 30 students to over 100 in 3 months.
To learn how to create this kind of experience for your student athletes, click here
Kennesaw Mountain High School
Billy Richardson, the Assistant Principal, shares how Habitudes helped create dramatic results with the students:
What problems were you facing before Habitudes?
Our school culture has greatly changed because more and more kids are looking at what they can do to get involved, to be more active. Up until I was presented with Habitudes, character education was getting to be a yearly fight. I have not had that fight since.
As Assistant Principal, I’ve been part of the leadership for our character education program from its beginning. Over these 10+ years, I have seen many character programs come and go. Three years ago, our program was getting stale. Students were becoming bored and not engaging with the lessons, and teachers were starting to fight back on doing character education altogether. On top of this, we had some major changes going on in and around the school. For example:
- We had a significant loss of students enrolled (over 1,000).
- The demographics of our student population changed as we saw free and reduced lunches increase from 2% to 37%.
- Many incoming students only had a 5th grade reading level.
The challenge we faced was trying to teach character education to a very diverse demographic of students.
How did Habitudes help you meet this challenge?
When I was introduced to Habitudes, I immediately saw it would be a great bridge between the learning gaps. We implemented Habitudes into our existing character education program, which is facilitated once a month in Homeroom. A student, teacher, or local business leader will teach a Habitude lesson and facilitate the discussions and activities for the whole class.
Every student in our school goes through this program. And, each grade level goes through a different Habitudes book. Our students also volunteer to teach Habitudes to our feeder schools. We provide a bus for them to be transported to our middle and elementary schools where we instill leadership and character in kids.
In addition, our students exercise and practice the skills learned through Habitudes during other events throughout the year, such as:
Special Needs Dance – Our students fundraise and lead dances for special needs kids from our county. As some might know, most special needs students never attend their high school dances. Our students go all out for these kids, dancing, taking pictures, and having fun!
Shop With A Student – This event provides under privileged children and families in the Kennesaw area with food and clothing during the Christmas time. Our students sponsor these children and take them shopping, help them wrap presents, and even give reading glasses to those children in need. Last year, they were able to raise enough to pay for a surgery for one of the children.
Baseball League for Special Needs Kids – Our students convinced local politicians to build a two million dollar baseball field for special needs kids. Now, our students volunteer to help 3 teams on their own Saturdays.
What results did Habitudes help create for your school?
Since we have implemented Habitudes, we have seen the curriculum contribute to the following results both in our school and in our community:
- 45% increase in community service hours per students. Even some of our homeless kids volunteer to support our special education programs.
- 60% decrease in fights.
- 40% decrease in theft.
- 50% increase in sophomore student leaders.
- 400% increase in student-initiated clubs.
Ultimately, we are seeing students from all demographics engage in the Habitudes lessons and having conversations on how to prepare for their life ahead of them.
In the local community, we’ve seen the following results:
- Some local business owners have said, “We will hire the Kennesaw Mountain students first,” even though there are five other high schools in our area.
- Some real estate agents have said, “When we see the numbers of community service hours from the students, it becomes a selling point to give to the parents of why they should buy in the Kennesaw Mountain High School district.”
Is there a specific story of change that comes to mind?
Another story of change includes, Donovan, who is one of our “at-risk” students. At one point, we seriously looked at removing him from school. Since he started Habitudes, though, Donovan has actually straightened up. He’s not in trouble, and I’ve noticed his grades going up. He is that typical kid from a broken family, living in the projects. Donovan is still involved with the rough crowd, but he’s making the right decisions. I am honored that his mom drives him to our school each day. They don’t live in our district, but in South Cobb. His mom is really trying to give him a better life.
To learn how to create this kind of experience for your student athletes, click here.
Hudsonville High School
Kevin Wolma, the Athletic Director for Hudsonville High School shares how Habitudes helped develop student leaders and built a positive school culture:
What were some of the challenges you faced before using Habitudes?
At the end of a season as the coaches and I evaluated how the season went, so often we would say, “Hey, the season didn’t go well because I didn’t have good senior leadership.” Other times we would say, “Man, that was a great season. I had such great leadership.” But it seemed leadership would always be a part of that evaluation of the season. Then we asked ourselves, “Do we even intentionally teach leadership? We don’t. We just assume kids have it or don’t have it.
Those questions sparked the idea and need for a leadership class at our school.
What were some of your objectives or goals you were trying to meet with using Habitudes in the leadership class?
I wanted the students to be able to recognize that there was more to leadership than what they thought. That’s kind of the first question I start out with is: What do you think a leader is? Then I kind of have them brainstorm that question. You know, I tell them in this class, you’re going to have some strengths and you’re going to have some weaknesses. That’s my goal for you guys: to understand the areas where you’re strong and build on those so you can be the best leader possible.
What led you to use Habitudes?
I’ve never seen a leadership program that has been both simple and powerful at the same time. I think the use of images really hits this generation. They remember it better. Without a doubt, I’ll have about 90% of the kids who will be able to tell me all twenty-six images taught, and they can give a small description of what each one’s about. That’s amazing! Tell me something else where you can just do that and get that kind of feedback from kids—without telling them they’re going to have a test.
How would you say it’s helped you to meet the goal that you had?
I would say that the culture in our building has changed. We have students here that are much more open to other student’s needs. We’ve seen that more so than ever before.
Whether it is kids seeking out other kids in lunch who sit alone to picking up trash on the floor the impact has been significant with changing a culture than ever before. The goal is for these students to put others before themselves and we are seeing that everyday. Coaches of athletes who have taken the course are making comments on how some of these principles are being brought back to their team. Many times situations are resolved before coaches need to get involved.
Rather than me tell you how Habitudes has helped, I’ll let the students tell you. Here are some quotes from them:
Quotes from Students
"The opportunity to come and take this class has been an amazing one. When I first heard about it, I didn't really want to take it. I had to choose something first hour, and this is what I was scheduled for and was unable to change it. After my first day my view changed. This class became an awesome chance to learn the different ways to become a leader. It has helped change some of my thinking about how I want to live my life, and the impact I want to have on others around me. It has shaped my whole view of what it takes to be a leader."
"Using Habitudes and discussing them in class has taught me the intricacies of what it takes to be a good, and proficient leader. The ideas behind Habitudes like The Starving Baker, Pyrrhic Victory and Velvet Covered Brick were all unknown to me before this class."
"This class helps the big word "leadership" make more sense by breaking it down a little bit each day."
"I learned a lot about myself as a leader by reading and reflecting on each of the Habitudes."
"Reading each Habitude taught me more about myself than I thought I knew."
“The use of images was very helpful for me, and I know that there will be many of them I will remember as I move on from this class.”
Are there any students or athletes that come to mind that came into this class and throughout it you saw some behavior, attitudinal changes because of it?
One story that I often tell people is about an athlete who cheated. Typically, a conversation with a student who hadn’t gone through Habitudes would be centered around the disciplinary action like: “What are you doing? What were you thinking? You know as an athlete you have greater responsibilities than other kids.” You know the same stuff we talk about all the time.
But because of this class we were able to have a different conversation that had a greater impact…
One of the things we do at the beginning of the class after we discuss the Habitude, Thermostat and Thermometers, is each student comes up with their core values, and then they share that in class.
When I brought him in and started talking to him… water in his eyes, the first thing I asked him was what was his core values were. He told me his core values and broke down. We were then able to talk about the core of the issue–not living by one’s values–rather than just the behavior.
Another story is about a student-athlete of mine that is now playing college football here in Michigan. He just called me this past Fall and told me about how he was able to share some of his Habitudes in one of his English classes. It’s amazing how the principles stuck with him enough that he was able to share it in college with fellow students.
The thing you hear about Habitudes, over and over again, is how applicable they are. I know I can teach a Habitude, and they feel they can go out and do it. We teach the Habitude, Hot Air Balloons, and the kids all will write three little positive notes and stick them in a teacher’s mailbox. Just this week, our Assistant Principal got a card from one of the kids in leadership class thanking him for the time he spends with kids.
It’s been incredible to see some of these stories and see a culture slowly start to change with how students treat each other.
I tell colleagues that if you truly want to be successful, you have to do this.
Fall Creek Valley Middle School
In an interview with Fall Creek Valley Middle School, Jason Williams and Josh Quinn shared how Habitudes® and character education has helped improve their STEM program, Project Lead the Way. As you will read, Jason had been using Habitudes and character education in his program for years; Josh saw the positive effects in Jason’s classroom and decided to try it for himself.
What problems were you facing before Habitudes?
Most of the students that come into our program have never had any type of discussion with an adult regarding character. If there was a behavior issue, an adult would address the behavior rather than helping the student understand the underlying character trait that is influencing their behavior. An overarching problem we face is lack of motivation in our students. To help overcome that, our school focuses on external rewards and consequences. When a student does something correctly, they expect a reward, and when they do something incorrectly, we must decide the consequence.
We found that because of this system and culture, our students starting doing correct activities just for the rewards. There was no intrinsic motivation built in these students. This led to all sorts of classroom management issues.
It was exhausting to constantly externally motivate students. Reward, punishment, reward, punishment. Jason allocated time in his classroom for character education and Habitudes, and I saw he wasn’t having the same problems. At first, I thought it was that he just had better students. Then I realized it was what he was teaching.
What kind of impact did Habitudes have on your students?
Our school implemented some character education initiatives, such as character posters in the hallways and “character words of the week”, but we didn’t find them to be effective nor engaging with students. We decided to teach Habitudes once a month in our individual STEM classes. We saw that the images were able to connect with all types of students.
We found it gives us an opportunity to not go right to discipline, but address the underlying problem. It gives language to address the character behind the behavior. When one kid starts packing up their books, then others do. All teachers see this behavior. I was able to quickly ask them, “Are we being Thermostats or Thermometers right now?” (A Habitude in the first series of images on self-leadership.) Quickly, they received the message and were able to self-evaluate their behaviors.
What results did habitudes help create for your school?
I saw Jason doing Habitudes and character development in his 7th grade STEM class, and I noticed he wasn’t having the same classroom management issues I was having. I asked Jason what his secret was, but he kept saying it was due to having conversations around developing character. I told him I didn’t have time to slow down and do a Habitude lesson. There was too much in the lesson plan to go through. Plus, his success must be due to have a good class of students. But eventually, I found that last assumption to be incorrect and gave in to trying Habitudes. I saw an immediate shift in my students.
I used to use tons of gimmicks to get students to behave correctly and do their work. It was all external motivation, and it was hard to keep up with all the rewards. After starting Habitudes, I now have almost no external motivators. In addition to not having to keep motivating my students, their quality of work is far better and the students are happier.
I also attribute our program’s student diversity to this character program. The 8th grade class I teach has 33% girls, which beats the 11-15% national average, and we have 50% minorities, which also beats the 10% national average.
Habitudes has changed our students and our program. I find my students are now intrinsically motivated to do what they need to, such as completing their homework and pushing in their chair. Parents say their kids love our class, and the parents even thank us for teaching Habitudes and character. When we tell them the specific character and leadership lessons we are covering, they say that is what I’ve been trying to tell them for years and are excited that another adult is affirming their work at home.
Teachers and visitors come by my class and say they don’t understand why the kids are the way they are. When I tell them about developing character in students, teachers say they don’t have time for that. I say, “I don’t not have time for it.” I don’t know how I would teach without it. Habitudes gave me a language to grow character in my students.
I recently pulled the numbers on referrals (disciplinary reports). As a school, the average is 46 referrals per teacher per school year. Josh and I write less than 10 referrals per year ever since we started Habitudes and character training. Several of those 10 weren’t even our students.
Is there a specific story of change that comes to mind?
The first story is of Sarah (name changed). She came from a good home. Her dad was an MIT graduate and was surprised to find out how much she hated school. In fact, her parents have said multiple times that, before our class, she was aimlessly wandering through life and had no purpose. But, she was really smart and had untapped potential.
After being in our class and going through Habitudes and character education, Sarah is driven and says she has a plan for the future. She’s one of our top students now and is now our program’s biggest recruiter. She tells students, “Project Lead the Way is more than just engineering. It’s about life, character and everything you need to be successful.” That’s the impact of Habitudes.
The second story is quite the comparison. It’s about Rebecca (name changed). Her home life was terrible… a nightmare… not even one we can describe here. After hearing it, you’d expect the worst outcome.
Rebecca is now a freshman in high school and recently reached back out to me. She informed me that she is in the advanced engineering class and is doing extremely well. She now wants to come back to our 8th grade class and mentor our students because of the impact our classes had on her life. Habitudes was her favorite part of the class. She jumped for joy when we said we were going over a Habitude one week. The funny thing is, we only spend one class day out of a month going over a Habitude, but for some like Rebecca, it’s their favorite part. Some students sign up for our class just because of Habitudes, which is surprising because our 7th grade STEM class is the hardest class available and our 8th grade STEM class is the second hardest class available. Students are lining up and fighting to be in our class.
We’ve found that wherever kids are at (whether from a great home or rough home), Habitudes helps take them to the next level in life and maturity. It gave Sarah motivation to be a great student, and it gave Rebecca hope for a brighter day. We’ve found these images to have the ability and power to connect with any type of student. It resonates with all kids at some level.
We teach a different kid at the end of the year than we did at the beginning. Not because they are smarter but because their character has grown and their leadership ability has expanded exponentially.
Our content and rigor haven’t changed. The only thing that has changed is character training and using Habitudes. Now our students behave better and are able to think long term about who they want to be and where they want to go in life.
Educators say they don’t have time to do character education, but we say we don’t not have time to do Habitudes and character education. Once you’ve gone down the path of integrating character education throughout your academics, you can’t go back. It is that effective.
To learn how to create this kind of experience for your student athletes, click here
Prince of Peace Christian School
In a recent interview, Michelle Dwyer of Prince of Peace Christian School shared how Habitudes is helping build a better school culture.
WHAT PROBLEMS OR ISSUES WERE YOU FACING THAT LED YOU TO USE HABITUDES?
We’ve seen a shift in today’s students. We’re finding more and more students lack a sense of responsibility and accountability. This is partly due to the parenting styles in their homes. Parents keep “swooping in” to save the day. We saw 7th and 8th graders still relying on their parents to communicate with their teachers. Bullying increased because students didn’t take responsibility for their actions. We could see a breeding ground for immaturity, and we wanted to proactively address it with character and leadership development. Our current leadership curriculum was too dry and didn’t engage the students, so we looked at alternative options.
When we came across Habitudes, we saw that it might help us address our challenges. Our team saw that the lessons in the curriculum were simple, short, and visual (just how today’s students want to learn). One goal we had for Habitudes was to help students take ownership of their lives and become responsible for what they do and say. We also wanted to help students identify their strengths and purpose and help them learn how to use their unique qualities to fulfill that purpose. Another goal we had was to build a better 8th grade class. The 8th graders influence the culture of the younger grades, and unfortunately, the previous 8th graders were not the most positive of influencers. We wanted to proactively prepare the 7th graders to be a better class. We believed this approach would decrease bullying and create a positive school culture.
HOW DID HABITUDES HELP?
In our school, we use Habitudes in 7th and 8th grades. The whole 7th grade goes through Book 1 while the 8th grade goes through Book 2. Each Tuesday, we go over one image (we call it “HabiTuesday”), and over the years, we’ve seen them make a great impact on the lives of our students. In both the 7th and 8th graders, we saw signs of empathy and responsibility increasing. What’s more, I have seen an increase in students standing up for others who are being bullied.
This year’s 8th grade class has been phenomenal, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they’ve been through two years of Habitudes. For the first time, we have a student leadership team. When we opened registration, half the 8th grade class signed up to be on the team. This group of students lead service projects that help improve the school and community, including a Bully Free Week, Christmas presents for students in need, and a Trunk or Treat community event. This team sets the example for the whole school and rallies other students around these initiatives, which has had a positive impact on school culture.
One benefit that I love about Habitudes is that it helps students identify their strengths. In discussing the Habitude Golden Buddha, one of our students, Andrew [name changed], took a strengths survey and identified that his top strength was Empathy (which is not a popular strength to have as a middle school boy). As our class was discussing each of our strengths, Andrew stood up and shared his strength, and one of the students in the class rose his hand and commented, “Wait… your strength is like a super power.” This is one example of many that illustrates how our students were able to identify and appreciate their own strengths those of others. We’ve had a problem with students focusing too much on what they don’t have strengths in and not on what they do have. It warms my heart each time I see a student discover that they have gifts inside of them. Too many believe they don’t.
One surprising result of Habitudes was how well our students remembered the images. As a teacher, we know many students forget what they learned after taking the test. At the end of the semester, however, I gave our students a pop quiz, asking them to name each Habitude we covered that semester, what principle it represented, and how to apply it. 90% of the students made a perfect score on the quiz, and the other 10% made high A’s! And the answers weren’t just regurgitated from the workbook—they gave the principle and the application in their own words. I was thoroughly encouraged by this result.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND HABITUDES TO OTHER EDUCATORS?
Absolutely. If you want to host important conversations with students (but don’t know how or don’t have the opportunity until there’s a behavioral issue), then use Habitudes. It helps facilitate those tough conversations in a positive way. It’s preventative education, rather than reactionary. I look forward to my Tuesdays each week when we discuss Habitudes. I believe these discussions are some of the most important we can have when developing students.
To learn how to create this kind of experience for your school, click here.
Northwest Whitfield High School
Our partners at Northwest Whitfield have seen such great results from using Habitudes they decided to create this video for their school’s website.