When teacher John Stagliano learned about personal development some 15 years ago, he wanted to introduce his sixth-graders to the subject. “Once I got turned on to it, I felt it was my responsibility to turn the children on to it,” he says.
And so he did, with the approval of the board of education and his superintendent. Through the years, he has used the books The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, The Compound Effect by SUCCESS Publisher Darren Hardy, Twelve Pillars by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener, and works by Napoleon Hill. But a favorite is SUCCESS for Teens, the cornerstone of the SUCCESS for Teens program. (Funded by tax-deductible donations, the SUCCESS Foundation offers SUCCESS for Teens curriculum free to most schools, churches and nonprofit youth outreach programs; requests may be made through SUCCESSFoundation.org.)
Every Friday, Stagliano’s class at Caroline L. Reutter School in Franklinville, N.J., uses lessons from SUCCESS for Teens to inspire small-group activities, including discussion and role-playing exercises from the book. The book meets nonfiction-reading qualifications in the curriculum, but Stagliano believes the program does much more to help students on standardized testing and other life challenges. “They feel good and confident about themselves,” he says.
The proof lies with the students themselves, and it takes years for Stagliano to see results. Some of his early participants are in college, and they tell him the personal-development message he taught has made a big difference in their lives.
Reports from younger students come in more quickly, of course, and indications are that as these students encounter some of the situations in SUCCESS for Teens, they are ready for them. “SUCCESS for Teens has helped me achieve my goals,” eighth-grader Dan Lockwood says. “It has also helped my friends and me survive NJASK [a New Jersey standardized test] prep.”
One year after Stagliano’s class, seventh-grader Haley Kahana says that the teacher’s life lessons and the SUCCESS for Teens book taught her to look at failure as part of learning and to know that she can still succeed by persevering. For instance, before experiencing the SUCCESS for Teens program, Haley says she’d be anxious about math tests and often fail them; now she has pulled up her math grades.
Sixth-graders feel comfortable with the situations and reading level of SUCCESS for Teens, says Stagliano—and he speaks with authority, because he has been teaching 11- and 12-year-olds for 23 years. He feels that even preteens relate well to the book’s stories—told in kids’ own words—because the scenarios cover situations the students could face in middle school.
“Sometimes educators get too caught up in the little things that don’t matter, and we forget the big things,” Stagliano says. “And the biggest things are the young people who are in front of us.”