“The Proposal” – a charming HOM Anecdote~

Dear Matanuska-Susitna campus colleagues,

Good morning!

Recently, Dr. Fox sent faculty a notice of an upcoming CAFE (Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence) meeting.  Attached were excerpts from Learning and Leading with habits of Mind: 16 essential characteristics for Success by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick.  The material includes a review of the nature of intelligence and an attempt to define 16 types of “habits of the mind” attributed to intelligent people.  There is also a discussion of how the teaching of various subjects is also an opportunity to actually try to teach the sixteen habits that enhance intelligent behavior.

There was a lot to ponder.  I especially enjoyed the sections on the habits listed as “Persisting” and “Taking Responsible Risks”.  In the introductory section there was commentary on the downside of seeing intelligence as a “fixed and unchangeable entity” which can lead to risk avoidance for fear of demonstrating inadequate intelligence to others.  “Taking Responsible Risks” argues for the importance of teaching responsible risk taking for personal and general societal advancement.  There will be eternal arguments over the nature of what is “responsible” risk taking.

Almost exactly thirty years ago I was a law student at the Pepperdine campus in London, England.  I met a girl who was a student at the London and Hammersmith College.  At the end of the semester I was in love and scheduled to resume studies at the main Pepperdine campus in California.  I decided I needed to propose marriage before I went home.   Risk was involved.   I gathered my funds, bought a ring, and then we went for a moonlit walk along the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.  I proposed marriage.  She responded that it was a big decision as we were from different continents.  One of us would be a long way from home.  She needed time to consider her answer and I said I needed an answer.  I was scheduled to leave the next day.  She asked to try on the ring.  I said that if I could not have a clear answer she could not try on the ring.  I threw the ring into the lake.

The maneuver of throwing a ring into a lake turned out to be an error.  Those who have read the “sixteen habits” of intelligent behavior will note there are also sections on “Managing Impulsivity” and “Thinking Flexibly”.  My girlfriend was not happy.  I flew back to California – alone.

This is where the “Persistence” behavior mattered.  I could not concentrate on my studies.  I went to the Dean and obtained permission to withdraw from law school and return the next semester.  I consulted with my family and friends.  Nearly everyone counseled me not to withdraw from school and not to go back to London.

Six days later, without telling anyone, I was back in London.  I knocked on her door.  One of her roommates opened the door and said nothing as she motioned my girlfriend to the door.  She was of course surprised, but smiled and said, “Yes, I will marry you.”

I had to buy a second (cheaper) ring.  In January it will be our 30th wedding anniversary.  Perhaps my story was not responsible or even intelligent risk taking.  What I do know is that Costa and Kallick are absolutely right when they write “When people hold back from taking risks, they miss opportunities.”  Helping our students better understand the components of intelligence and believing as Costa and Kallick suggest, that some habits of intelligence can be identified and taught are worthy topics of discussion and consideration.

Thank you Dr. Fox and others involved in CAFE for making the effort to consider the larger picture of what we do and how we might do it better.

Have a Great week!

Talis J. Colberg, Director, Matanuska-Susitna College University of Alaska Anchorage

A letter from a teacher~

Dear Mr. Westblade

I would like to follow up on a number of the conversations that we have had in relation to the wonderful environment that our children at St Joseph’s School at Bulli are experiencing with the integration of Habits of Mind. Under your leadership and the teachers’ enthusiasm this exemplary way of thinking has been incorporated into the ethos and teaching programs and enthusiastically embraced by our students.

What initially struck me about the program is how well it aligns with the graduate attributes we have for our students at the University of Wollongong. Our attributes for our graduates highlight being informed, being independent learners and problem solvers, being effective communicators and being responsible for their decisions in an ethically responsible way. What a joy to see that our children are actively encouraged to achieve this way of thinking from such an early age. Striving for quality in their work, being persistent, listening with empathy and understanding, managing their impulsivity (a special favourite one in our house!) and taking responsible risks are vital to developing successful approaches to life’s opportunities and challenges. These are only a few of the critical ways of thinking that are fundamental to the Habits of Mind but I agree wholeheartedly with the approach.

Reflecting on my own life having trod the scientific pathway all these habits are something that I have required and sometimes needed to develop over the years to be able to achieve in education and research. Striving for accuracy and precision is clearly a non debatable component of research but so are applying past knowledge to new situations (leads to great new ways of approaching complicated areas), being curious (otherwise how we would understand how our world operates and why), and gathering data through all our senses (impossible to build the whole picture if we are unilateral in our approach).

I can link all the others as well but I am especially encouraged to see that our students have continuous learning promoted to them early on in life. This current world that we face is expanding at exponential rates in terms of knowledge so if we are not open to the concept of continuous learning from an early age we are likely to become very isolated. My own career has reflected the many changes that continuous learning has provided and I have been very privileged in enjoying different pathways for my career that were created with the application of new learning.

Finally I must admit finding humour and having the humility to respond with wonderment and awe to achievements has been something that I have found has not only saved my sanity at times but been critical in bonding with others in a meaningful way. Thank you for bringing this way of thinking to our students it will take them a long way in this ever changing world. It does not necessarily mean that they will all want or need to become tertiary qualified but what it will do is build their resilience and confidence to face this fascinating world we live and perhaps solve many of the problems that we struggle with today.

Yours sincerely,

Anne McMahon

Vignettes – Part I~

We survey our students randomly to ascertain the depth of knowledge, understanding and use of the Thinking Tools used, and we focused on Habits of Mind specifically in 2008’s survey. Not only did we find that understanding is high, but that the depth is strong. The following Year 6 comment illustrates this well:

I use Habits of Mind to break down my learning and then expand upon it later. It makes it easier by being better organised—one little part by little part until all the links are made. —Tahi

We’ve also recently hosted the Education Review Office (inspectors!) who loved how the children could see the positive impacts of Habits of Mind on their learning. They were particularly impressed by 5-year-old Oscar, who said, when they interviewed him amongst a group of 12 mixed-age students and asked what he would change at this school if he were the principal: “I’d make sure that everybody learns how to think.” If that’s not a fantastic advertisement for the value of Habits of Mind, what is?

—Marty Hantz, Haumoana School

I used the Habits of Mind with my high school juniors as the basis for evaluation of the main character in Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi novel Ender’s Game. …it was so amazing…. They used removable dots as they read to mark each example of an indicator in action…. They charted them…[and] picked five to use to argue the main character’s qualifications to be given the highest post of office…. They did this in a formal paper, then in an interview format before five adults and a video camera…. They make “visuals” to use as precise points of the presentation of the indicators…. Bottom line, it was a magnificent multi-genre unit with lasting repercussions…. I got e-mails from three different ex-students who are now teachers themselves and asked for help to set up the unit in their classrooms now…. I’ve wanted to share this with you for years…. Orson Scott Card has the unit on his website for others using his book….

—Mary Kim Schreck

Students’ awareness and horizons expanded. By participating intensely in this process, students feel in control of their choices and more consciously aware of what these choices entail and of recognizing the purpose behind the choices…. I could clearly sense the transformation. It was really like someone has lit a lamp in the students’ minds.  Makes me very happy.

—Khadijah Bawazeer, King Abdulaziz University

I immediately saw a direct connection between the Habits of Mind and Iditarod mushers, specifically Jeff King, the four time Iditarod champion.  Jeff King has visited the Sidney schools many times because Cabela’s, Jeff’s main sponsors, is located in Sidney. In 2006, my fourth graders wrote a book for Jeff and how he uses the Habits of Mind. I had 17 kids so it worked out great. Each student wrote on one habit and how Jeff used it during the Iditarod race. The 17th student wrote the dedication page and did the art work for the cover. Last year, I began teaching Habits of Mind all year long. The students became very familiar with them and authored their own personal book on how they used the HOM throughout their life. Of course, I once again engaged the Iditarod mushers as people who incorporate these thinking strategies into their lives.

—Judi Roach, 4th grade teacher, Central Elementary School, Sidney, Nebraska

I am using Habits of Mind in journaling with adult learners. It is now starting to show that the students who conscientiously write to the habits each week are the ones who are succeeding in the course connections.

—Gaye Witney

I continue to learn & teach with HOM and am constantly amazed at the way they are creeping into all parts of my work (and, increasingly, home life). The leadership of our recently held a session for us on work place bullying (as in how to avoid it, not create it!) and it occurred to me how much HOM can support an individual’s & group’s emotional well-being and how HOM would benefit an entire staff, if they all took it on sincerely. This line of thought led me to consider my students who I am helping to prepare for Secondary school (I teach the final year of primary school—Year 6). If I can establish ties with Yr 7 teachers, and persuade them of the values of HOM, we will create a common language of thinking/success. I believe this could be a valuable tool in assisting the students’ transition from primary to secondary.

While working with my students on creating PowerPoint presentations that use HoM wordsplashes & symbols, we are going to run them ‘kiosk’ style for open days/parent nights. I asked them to include a picture that symbolized the Habit for them. While working on this, the Star Wars theme suddenly burst from a boy’s laptop. I leapt (without looking!) into teacher-mode, ready to bring the full wrath of a righteous educator upon the head of this time waster, only to be put FIRMLY in my place by his explanation that he was looking for a picture of Darth Vader to represent Managing Impulsivity. I don’t know if you are a Star Wars fan, but this was a very powerful (and pertinent) description/symbol of this character. Yet again, I am astounded at how much I am learning here!!!

—Dale Sheppard, Melbourne, Australia

Vignettes – Part II~

I have successfully used The Habits of Mind with my fourth graders. We stress character education at Laurence, and I have found the Habits of Mind to be great character-developing tools. I have also integrated the Habits of Mind with literature. We study the Habits of Mind using Word Splashes and, once the students are familiar with the meanings of each Habit, I instruct them to link specific Habits of Mind to characters in the novels we are reading. They are asked to evaluate a main character’s behavior throughout the novel and to choose two or three Habits of Mind they believe that character is using. They must provide passages of text that support their choice and describe in their own words exactly how that character is using a particular Habit of Mind.

The director of my school introduced the faculty and staff to the Habits of Mind three years ago and, since that time, I have used them successfully in my classroom. I am very much a fan of your series of books on the Habits of Mind. I find the 16 Habits to be extremely valuable and my students always enjoy learning about them.

—Sharon Green, Fourth grade teacher, The Laurence School, Los Angeles, California

Isn’t it exciting about HOMs? Teachers and parents are starting to realize how important these are as foundation and scaffolding to the whole person. Especially as there seems to be a low tide with encouraging positive attitudes, morals and values in young minds. My class of 5-7 year-olds is at present studying Antarctica and looking at three explorers Shackleton, Amundsen and Scott. The intelligent behaviors and lack of stand out so well, to the point where my older ones realize that for example that lack of precision and accuracy can cost you your life. Learning has become more than just knowledge based. Great stuff.

—Georgette Jenson, Wainui Beach, Gisborne, New Zealand

I would like to share two anecdotal experiences concerning students that are focusing on using the habits of finding humor.

My first student is a boy called Stephen. He is the boy that teachers dread having in their class, he is a clown, argumentative and sassy. I think what teacher’s really fear is his razor sharp wit. He has the uncanny ability to intelligently manipulate a situation and humiliate teachers and students by finding their weaknesses by using humor or sarcasm in a negative way. However, when Stephen is on a teacher’s side he has an energy, passion for learning and perception that is a joy to experience in the classroom. I think he is, without a doubt, one of the most intelligent students I have ever taught, as he has this wonderful ability to think laterally, problem solve and create by using humor. His love of learning is cleverly disguised beneath his humor. Like so many teenagers today they think it is uncool to show the habit of wonderment and awe. I think habits have been a fantastic tool for harnessing Stephen’s impetuous nature and humor. When introducing the habits Stephen was immediately drawn to the habit of finding humor. He recognized that he often used it inappropriately. Since using habits in the classroom he has made a conscious effort to be less sarcastic and demanding with his humor, particularly in his questioning and clarifying information with staff. I am seeing a huge improvement and maturing attitude that is making him a strong, positive role in the classroom. His peers have responded very positively to his change in behavior and have supported him by being more tolerant and accepting of his leadership, particularly in group.

I also teach another extremely intelligent student who is the complete opposite of Stephen. His name is John and he is one of the most humorless people I have ever met. Because of this he is extremely isolated from his peers and teachers. Students have found it very difficult to relate to his intense, insular personality. John immediately recognized finding humor as being a habit which he needed to work on. When I asked him why he wanted to work on this particular habit he said, “because I want to be able to join in, I think funny things but I’m too shy to share it.” For John it was the risk taking that was so difficult to overcome, he had unfortunately never developed the skill of sharing personal information and as such the lack of disclosure gave him the impression of being arrogant and aloof. He didn’t like the perception his peers and teachers had of him. It pained him that he was unable to participate in any friendly classroom banter or discussion. John has tried very hard with this habit and is gaining good results. He is beginning to become more vocal in class and to share his rather quirky style of humor. Students have warmed to him and I think it is assisting his social skills with his peers. He has so much to offer his peers and I am really pleased that he is beginning to relate to them a friendly and positive way. He also appears far more relaxed and open to group work. In my opinion it has made him more engaged and interested in his learning.

Therefore, I do think you can work at getting better at finding humor. In fact I think as teachers we owe it to the Stephen’s and John’s of this world to foster their ability to find humor, as we do with our support and nurture of the “whole child.” I think the ability to find humor is one of the joys of life and I would hate my students to miss out on experiencing it. Humor is so infectious; surely there isn’t a better way to learn? I know my ability to find humor certainly makes my classroom far more conducive to learning. I would encourage teachers to foster it as valuable life long skill for themselves and their students.

—Jacqueline Nel, Girrawheen Senior High School, Perth, Western Australia

I have a great class this year. They have been one of my most empathetic groups of students I have ever had the pleasure of working with. It’s been fun to see them grow into the Habits of Mind and start implementing them naturally in their thinking. Every week I send home a weekly calendar which highlights important events for the next week. I always include a special quote at the top of the calendar. Last week’s quote was:

“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t know.” —Anatole France

Vignettes – Part III~

After discussing what this meant to us for a little bit, one of my girls raised her hand and said, “Mr. Horner, this quote sounds a lot like metacognition.” It’s little things (or big things!) like that we can really build upon now, because my kids have internalized them so much, they’re starting to recognize the habits of minds in every setting of the day. Pretty cool!

—Brian Horner, Fifth grade teacher, Beebe School, Naperville School District, Naperville, Illinois

We have a positive code of behaviour policy within the school (discipline policy) and we have found your HOM an excellent framework to compliment this code and extend it to include work habits and attitudes which are positive and supportive not only for the individual children but also for all the children in the school. We have found many parents overtly supporting the concepts at home. It is pleasing to hear parents use the language of HOM. The children certainly enjoy using the terms.

—Steven Bowers, Sydney Church of England Grammar School, North Sydney, Australia

What wonderful gifts you have provided for educators in the HOM series. Palmer ISD, a relatively small school district (four campuses) south of Dallas has been studying HOM since last summer. Just last week their Board participated in a two-hour overview of HOM–we had fun. Administrators were also attending to provide support. HOM indications are present in this district in many ways. Signs are on the walls, discussions occur, book studies are in process. Even the community is involved. Chick-fil-A has issued “Congratulations on your Persistence at Palmer Elementary. Keep up the good Work!” gift certificate for one free 4-Piece Kid’s Meal.

Even though educators are pulled in many different ways, HOM is becoming a clear strand in the work at Palmer. I wanted the authors to know and to hear my thanks.

—Rita Martin, Ph.D., Master Consultant, Division of Instruction, Texas

I would just like to share with you some of the success the Habits have brought me as a parent. I have a very bright child who has encountered difficulty achieving her social and academic potential during her early school years. After years of looking to her teachers to provide her with significant help, I discovered the Habits of Mind and decided to try them with her.

By using a system such as the Habits, it made my attempts less emotionally stressful and more neutral and concrete for both of us. We have discussed some Habits relevant to her and created what we call ‘Head Talk’ or things that she can say to herself when she finds herself in situations which have been troublesome in the past. Our discussions are calm and enjoyable and she feels and equal participant in crating this ‘Head Talk.’

A recent parent/teacher interview has confirmed that this is working for us. The teacher (a first) praised her ‘work and social habits’ in many ways. She is more comfortable with her peers and is taking risks and achieving. She is happier.

I feel that the Habits of Mind gave us a platform from which she could begin to feel successful. As we know, success breeds success. I am sure this is the beginning for her. Thank you for your ideas and inspiration. You have started us on a much better path. Here’s to the future.

—A thankful parent, New Zealand

Thinking is when you remember to sharpen your pencil and thinking is when Ms. Kitsuki don’t have think for you. So think for yourself because Ms. Kitsuki don’t want to think for you and the reason why she don’t want to think for you is because she wants to think for herself.

—Shan Te, grade 1, Contributed by Lee Hoxie, Makawao Elementary School, Hawaii

One of the most valuable pieces of information that I learned this year, that will help me in my life, is the Habits of Mind. The Habits of Mind are helpful for me, because they will help me with my thinking as I get older, even when I have a family to take care of. For example, one of the Habits of Mind is Persistence. It means not to give up. If I feel I am not good at something, I just keep on trying and let me give it my best shot. Another Habit of Mind is Listening with Understanding and Empathy. If I see someone is hurt physically or mentally, I have to understand how they feel and help that person the best way I can. My last example of the Habits of Mind is Managing Impulsivity. When I’m excited, scared, angry or lose my patience, calm down. The key to managing my impulsivity is to keep calm. Thanks so Mr. Horner for teaching us the Habits of Mind, which will be a lifelong lesson I will never forget.

—Saketh, 5th grade, Contributed by Brian Horner, Beebe Elementary School, Naperville, Illinois

When I think back on what I learned in 5th grade, I understand why this year was my best year in Elementary School. This year was my most successful one. The one thing I learned that will always stick with me out of all the things I’ve learned is The Habits of Mind. The Habits of Mind are basically just different ways to respond to different situations. Let’s say you fell on your face in a crowd and were not injured. One of my favorite things to do is just remember the Habits of Mind. One is called finding Humor. It would be best in my opinion to just laugh it off. This way everyone knows that you don’t take everything seriously. One Habit of Mind that I have really utilized this year is Thinking Interdependently, unlike all my other years at Beebe, this year I have rally worked in groups with other people in my class. This really let me see other people’s perspectives and I was now able to compare them with my own. I have really enjoyed learning about the Habits of Mind because it makes me see that there is much more to school than just reading and arithmetic. I saw that it was really possible to learn some great life lessons through all the Habits of Mind. I know I will never forget any of them.

—Ashley, 5th Grade, Contributed by Brian Horner, Beebe Elementary School, Naperville, Illinois

Vignettes – Part IV~

The Habits of Mind actually helped me. This guy, the guy that created it, went around to all these famous and successful people and actually made up the habits of Mind and all that type of thing and its sort of great to that I… this stuff is made from successful people and if we do this we can be successful in the future as well.

—Billy, 7th Year, Contributed by James Anderson, The Grange, Melbourne, Australia

My dad is an industrial/organizational psychologist. He works with large companies and organizations on developing leadership skills. Some of his clients have included US Postal Service, Amtrak, National Institute of Health, etc. He is currently writing a book on “Action Learning” with a couple of colleagues. It is meant to be a “textbook” for managers in corporations. He actually asked for my input about the chapter. Guess what the chapter focuses on… “habits of learning!” Adaptability, a sense of wonder, reflection, critical reflection, and metacognition… sound familiar? Are we preparing our kids for the future or what?

—Allison Leonard, Teacher, Sunrise Valley Elementary School, Fairfax County, Virginia

I was invited to speak to the Australian Institute of Managements’ Leadership Development Group. There were about 80 business leaders present for the session and the topic for the evening was “The Think Smart Leader.” There were two other speakers present from the business community as well as myself, both of whom spoke to developing better thinking and intelligent behaviors in their organizations.

I spoke for about 10 minutes on the teaching of thinking and Habits of Mind specifically. At the end of the session each table was asked to comment on the presentations. Although they could have chosen to comment on the other speaker’s topics nearly every table commented on how excited they were that schools were teaching these types of skills. They asked how long it would be before these students would filter through into the work force. They were commenting that these were exactly the types of skills they were trying to foster in their own organizations. Several people commented that they were going to take the list of Habits of Mind and discuss them with their employees. They seemed universally impressed with our efforts to teach thinking and intelligent behaviors.

I left the evening with a new confidence that we are on the right track. I can’t describe to you how validating it was to have these business leaders instantly recognize the value of what we are doing and praise us for our efforts. We recognize them as valuable, our parents recognize them as valuable, and business leaders recognize them as valuable. Who do you think has got it right?

—James Anderson, Victoria Schools Innovation Commission, Melbourne, Australia

I have become a true believer in the power of the Habits since I first learned about them and I want everyone else to learn about them too.

My son attends elementary school in a district which has incorporated the Habits of Mind as a central part of their curriculum and learning culture. I have read and studied several of your books and I wholeheartedly support the district in their choice. For the past few years I have been closely involved in efforts to expand the understanding of the Habits of Mind in our school community, both to the students and their parents. Over the school year we concentrate on one or two Habit(s) each month, although all the Habits are part of the daily curriculum. Teachers emphasize the featured Habit(s) during the month and we plan special Habit related activities and projects for the students. We even have a Habits of Mind anthem, written by the music teacher, that the students sing at school assemblies.

Every month I create a worksheet which discusses the featured Habit(s) at the student’s level and gives them three or four grade level appropriate activities to do during the month to help them practice the Habit(s). Every student who turns in a sheet receives a pencil from the principal and their picture is posted on a central bulletin board. Students who complete two out of three worksheets are invited with their parents to attend a HoM Breakfast of Champions with the principal. As well, for the past two years I have written weekly articles for our school newsletter discussing the Habit(s) of the month, to help our parents better understand the Habits and support their use at home as well as at school. At our school we have seen many great results from our efforts in teaching the Habits including very positive reports on the problem solving, team work, analytical and language skills demonstrated by our students on field trips and at fifth grade camp.

I have (affectionately) been called a Habits of Mind nerd because of the time and energy I have devoted to promoting the Habits at my son’s school and for the fact that I can be relied upon to insert a reference to an appropriate Habit into almost any discussion or plan made at school. I have even been published as a guest columnist in the local newspaper on the subject of the Habits of Mind and how they benefit the students in our district. At the request of its principal, I worked with the social worker of a local school to help her redesign that school’s HoM program. I regularly discuss the Habits with my son and have incorporated them into my parenting. I hope that they will truly become habits for him that will help him throughout his life.

-Lesley Butler Sayre Elementary School South Lyon Community Schools

South Lyon, Michigan.

Habits of Mind Featured in the Hawaii Dept. of Education Newsletter, “The Superintendent’s InfoEXCHANGE”, January 6, 2011

Waikiki Elementary Receives Award for Excellence

Waikiki Elementary is the first Hawaii school to be recognized by The Institute for Habits of Mind.  Over the past 20 years, Waikiki Elementary has incorporated the Habits of Mind in its school environment, curriculum and assessment, policy and practices.

The International Habits of Mind Learning Community of Excellence Award recognizes schools that are successfully infusing the Habits of Mind in their communities and have sustained the commitment to the Habits of Mind over an extended period of time.

Habits of Mind are dispositions that are skillfully and mindfully employed by characteristically intelligent, successful people when they are confronted with problems.  Examples of dispositions include, but are not limited to, finding humor, managing impulsivity, thinking flexibly, taking responsible risks, and striving for accuracy.  The mission of The Institute for Habits of Mind is to transform schools into learning communities where thinking and habits of mind are taught, practiced, valued, and infused into the culture.  For information about The Institute, visit

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