Nick Bruski Blog Series

“The Habits of Mind are a lens to understand the world around us, and to empower us to live fuller and more meaningful lives, both as students, and as human beings.”
The Habits of Mind are an incredibly powerful idea in an educational landscape too often focused on “standards” and test-taking.  We live in a time where knowledge is just a click away, and schooling is now much more about what we do with that knowledge, not simply imparting knowledge to our students.  The Habits are a framework that develops dispositions within our students and ourselves, that promote thoughtful engagement with both content and the world around us. The Habits of Mind pervade every aspect of a child’s academic and social life, and we have a responsibility to empower our communities by teaching students to understand and embrace them.  One of the most compelling aspects of the Habits of Mind is that they transcend any particular content area.  But, they should be taught just like one teaches math or reading; in the context of the bigger picture and in connection with content. This learning sticks when ideas are connected to meaning. The goal of this blog is to help others learn from our mistakes and our successes, and to paint a picture of how a community can fully embrace the Habits of Mind.  I hope to provide a useful perspective to those along their own journey of embracing the Habits of Mind in their institution or family. By sharing philosophies and practical tips, I hope that reading these entries helps you in creating, imagining and innovating your own path to success.

In an educational landscape of rigorous Common Core Standards, NGSS, new curricula, mindfulness, and a never­ending stream of local initiatives, one might ask, “where the heck do I find time to teach Habits of Mind, and how in the heck am I going to get to all 16 of them?” Is 16 Habits too many?

The simple answer is yes, 16 Habits is too many to explicitly teach in the course of a year.

So what Habits do you ditch? None…

Ron Ritchhart of Harvard University says that everything you do sends messages about what you value. As you begin to think about the Habits of Mind and your environment, a community should ask itself, “What messages are we sending?” and “What messages do we want to send?”

Schools seeking to meaningfully incorporate the Habits of Mind into their school environment should consider developing a symbolic center or touchstone for the Habits somewhere on campus.

Ignited in December of 2017, the largest wildfire in California history ravaged nearly 300,000 acres of hillsides and homes, leaving a charred and barren landscape. This damage, combined with incredibly intense rainfalls in the early morning hours of January 9th, caused a massive debris flow in the village of Montecito, destroying homes and taking lives, as mud, boulders, branches, and sometimes whole homes slid down the mountain.

Montecito Union Schools’ physical structures were spared, sitting at a slightly higher elevation between the two creek beds where most of the destruction happened. However, the community we serve was devastated, facing the loss of friends and family, destroyed, damaged and unlivable homes, a closed highway cutting the town off on the southbound end, weeks of evacuations, and the uncertainty of if and when it would be safe to return to their homes.

In the midst of the chaos and the ensuing weeks, our work with the Habits of Mind served as a rock-solid foundation through the immediate trauma of the events, as well as the rebuilding and healing that continued to happen months afterward.

Nick Bruski, Ed.D.

Nick Bruski has served in various positions in education including classroom teaching, coaching, administration, training, and higher education. His diverse work experience includes teaching in inner-city Los Angeles, serving as a principal in both high-poverty and high-affluence communities, extensive training of public school administrators in the areas of culture, data, and teacher evaluation, and lecturing in UCLA’s Ed.D. program. He completed his Doctor of Education degree at UCLA, where he was awarded the Departmental Prize for Outstanding Dissertation for his work titled Motivational Forces in a Growth-Centered Model of Teacher Evaluation. Dr. Bruski continues to serve in public education and seeks opportunities for continued consulting, writing and leadership in the areas of teacher evaluation, school culture and growth, curriculum, leadership, and more.

Nick Bruski can be reached at nicholasbruski@gmail.com.

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