Putting Habits of Mind Into Practice with Montecito Union

On April 5th and 6th, we will be gathering at the Vista Unified School District in southern California for the Habits of Mind Conference!

The day before –Thursday, April 4th – attendees are invited for a pre-conference site visit to Montecito Union, an IHOM Learning Community of Excellence, so that they can see what the Habits of Mind look like and feel like in action.

During our recent live Q&A with Nick Bruski and Rusty Ito, Montecito Union’s Principal and Assistant Principal, Nick explained that Montecito Union’s mission statement is to “launch inspired thinkers who will positively impact the world.”

“As all the latest research is coming out,” he said, “kids need so much more of the softer skills to be successful in their lives, to be problem solvers, to be critical thinkers, to be partners, to be kind, to have respect and integrity. And that, you know, we wanted a more formalized curriculum to really educate our students and prepare them to be productive citizens in life outside of the classroom.”

“As a school, we made a really conscious effort to really promote integration in all senses of the word.”

How do Montecito Union Public Schools integrate the Habits of Mind?

Monthly “Roadmaps”

Each month focuses on a specific Habit. Monthly classroom meetings focus around that Habit and other skill sets to empower learners to be not only academically successful, but socially and emotionally successful as well.

Integration Into Curriculum

The Habits are very intentionally integrated into the curriculum at all age levels. For example, when kindergarteners read The Little Engine That Could, the story is connected to Persistence; science is tied to Responding with Wonderment and Awe; in math, Striving for Accuracy and Precision is emphasized as well as Communicating with Accuracy and Precision (showing your work).

“When teachers are empowered–everyone at your school, kindergarten through sixth grade, is sending messages about being accurate and precise, and communicating their thinking clearly–when those kids get to sixth grade, they look a lot different than a child who didn’t have six prior years of those two Habits interwoven with math consistently.”

Integration Into Assessment

Five core Habits are graded each semester and included as part of the “thinking and learning dispositions” segment of Montecito Union’s report cards. Students also use the Habits of Mind as self reflection tools. Rusty explained:

“Sometimes that self reflection aligns with the teachers’ assessment, and sometimes it doesn’t, but then again, great conversation piece and partnership with the families. A great opportunity to say: ‘Here’s what’s successful, here’s where we can grow, let’s put a plan together to make that happen.’ “

Extracurricular Interactions

Organic opportunities often arise during recess and lunch, and other less structured times–Managing Impulsivity, Thinking Interdependently, and Thinking Flexibly all come up in the nature of play and conflict resolution. These are perfect learning opportunities to connect real life skills and the Habits together as opportunities for growth.

Modeling The Language, Particularly Around Tough Conversations

Nick relayed the story of a misunderstanding that was caused by unclear communication with school staff; he later apologized for failing to Communicate with Clarity and Precision. By modeling the language of the Habits, Nick is “owning it as well and kind of living and breathing the Habits of Mind.”

Making Home/School Connections

Newsletters encourage reading and learning about Habits of Mind in hopes that families will begin to start to embrace that language at home, fostering a supportive home/school partnership.

Creating a Symbolic Center On Campus

Students worked together with a artist and parent to create a beautiful mural representing the Habits of Mind with local context, serving as a constant reminder that the Habits live on their campus and are a part of everything they do.

Watch the full replay for more!

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If you are already using Habits of Mind as part of your daily practice and are committed to nurturing the growth of the dispositions in others, you can pursue becoming an individual practitioner certified by the Institute for Habits of Mind (IHOM).

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