In part 4 of the Habits of Mind, we will be looking at the final four Habits. These four fit together quite well. These four habits are all about trying something new, even though it may not go as planned. They’re about putting yourself out there and being able to laugh it off and learn from the parts that didn’t go as planned. To read Part One, click here, for Part Two, click here, Part Three, click here.
Taking Responsible Risks
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” – Babe Ruth
This habit of mind is all about putting yourself out there. Trying something new or different can be scary, but you can never let the fear of the worst stop you from trying in the first place. Be adventurous! Try a new way of doing things, try something for the first time. The experience in and of itself can be a rewarding adventure.
It helps if your students feel like they are in a safe place to try new things. Have a classroom where the ‘wrong’ answer is just a stepping-stone in the right direction. When it comes to discussions, if I don’t follow how a student got to a certain conclusion, I ask them to explain their reasoning so I can see how they got there. I admit that I’ve taken and continue to take my own responsible risks. Sometimes they work better than I planned. Other times, at least I learned something interesting. Encourage students to try new endeavors; try out for the team, try a new club, share your thoughts in class.
“A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road.” – Henry Ward Beecher
This habit, I feel, ties in well with taking responsible risks. We are only human and we are bound to slip up, feel embarrassed, and get frustrated. The heart of this habit wants students to be able to find the humor in a situation. Not everything is funny, but if you can learn to laugh things off and find the humor in a situation, you’re less likely to get frustrated and give up and more likely to try again.
Just like taking responsible risks, a safe classroom environment will get students more comfortable to put themselves out there. Part of this is to make sure that you don’t let your students get away with the wrong kind of humor that comes at the expense of someone else. Teachers are human too and I make it a point to show my students I can laugh things off as well.
“Every person you meet – and everything you do in life – is an opportunity to learn something.” – Tom Clancy
Being able to think interdependently is all about teamwork. To be able to think interdependently is to be able to share the work and ideas. You have to able to listen to others’ ideas and constructive criticism as well as being comfortable with putting your own out there. Someone who works well in a group works hard for group goals and personal goals without sacrificing their ideas or creativity.
I like giving students the choice to work independently or in small groups often, but sometimes I make it a necessity to work in a group. There is always a fair amount of groaning about not wanting to work in a group and working better alone. That is when I whip out the horrible truth; you will be working in groups for the rest of your lives. Get used to it. It sounds harsh, but in reality, students need to learn to work in groups. Being able to give and take ideas, criticisms, even leadership roles is an important skill that will follow them through life. I admit to them that I like working along often, but can also work well in a team. For some students, having roles when assigning a project may be helpful to get them off on the right foot.
Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” – Albert Einstein
The final habit of mind is learning that you’re never done learning. Inhabiting this mindset means that it’s okay to admit that you don’t know the answer. Students can look at old ideas or projects and see how they’ve improved or see how they could improve. If you have this habit, you will never back down from an opportunity to learn something new.
I always make it a point to let them know that it’s okay if you don’t know the answer. Sometimes I don’t know the answer. But as a lifetime learner, I can venture a guess as to where I can find answers. We also look at old papers and notes that they’ve written to show that they have been learning. We set goals for our education that we can reach (raising grades, personal habits, reading), and even use our new skills to redo old work on occasion. The world around us is changing all the time. We need to be open to learn new things in all aspects of life.
Minnie is a writer and English teacher with a degree in Secondary English Education and Vocal Music Performance from Colorado Mesa University. She has taught 6th grade English and Classes for those with severe special needs. While teaching 6th grade she created a weekly program to help students in need of help and their parents better understand Tolmann writing and co-taught a technology intensive research project.