Green and Clean – Owning Your Learning

In our Grade 9 and 10 English class, we used a story told by Stephen R. Covey in his world renowned book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that we called ‘Green and Clean’. It is a story I may use with the Grade 7 and 8 as well (the concept is one we have discussed since September).

In the story Stephen’s seven year old son volunteers to take care of the yard as his way of helping with the family chores. They discuss thoroughly the objective: a yard that is Green and Clean – they carefully defined what both meant and looked like. Then the following conversation took place (page 176):

“Now before you decide whether or not you’re going to take the job, let me tell you a few more things. Because when you take the job, I don’t do it anymore. It’s your job. It’s called a stewardship. Stewardship means ‘a job with a trust.’ I trust you to do the job, to get it done. Now who’s going to be your boss?”

“You, Dad?”

“No, not me. You’re the boss. You boss yourself. How do you like Mom and Dad nagging you all the time?”

“I don’t.”

We don’t like doing it either. It sometimes causes a bad feeling, doesn’t it? So you boss yourself. Now guess who your helper is?”


“I am,” I said. “You boss me.”

“I do?”

“That’s right. But my time to help is limited. Sometimes I’m away. But when I’m here, you tell me how I can help. I’ll do anything you want me to do.”


Now guess who judges you?”


“You judge yourself.”

“I do?”

” That’s right twice a week the two of us will walk around the yard, and you can show me how it’s coming. How are you going to judge?”

“Green and clean.”


I trained him with those two words for two weeks before I felt he was ready to take the job. Finally, the big day came.

“Is it a deal, son”

“It’s a deal.”

“What’s the job?”

“Green and clean.”

(Covey goes on to explain his disappointment as days went by without his son doing anything. )

I bit my tongue and waited until after dinner. Then I said, “Son, let’s do as we agreed. Let’s walk around the yard together and you can show me how it’s going in your stewardship.”

As we started out the door, his chin began to quiver. Tears welled up in his eyes and, by the time we got out to the middle of the yard, he was whimpering.

“It’s so hard, Dad!”

What’s so hard? I thought to myself. You haven’t done a single thing! But I knew what was hard – self-management, self-supervision. So I said, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Would you, Dad?” he sniffed.

“What was our agreement?”

“You said you would help me if you had time.”

“I have time.”

So he ran into the house and came back with two sacks. He handed me one. “Will you pick that stuff up?” He pointed to the garbage from Saturday night’s barbecue  “It makes me sick!”

So I did. I did exactly what he asked me to do. And that was when he signed the agreement in his heart. It became his yard, his stewardship.

Our goal is to encourage our students to make learning theirs, their stewardship!

(To be continued.)


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