The Habits of Mind

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

 Welcome to the last term of the school year. Being the shortest term, it always feels very rushed and almost overwhelming in its busyness. However, during the recent school break I found the opportunity to immerse myself in being a student.

Well, not actually accurate. What really happened was that we had ordered a beautiful cubby house for my daughter and it arrived in a multitude of flat packs. In addition to this, the instructions were extremely basic and the screws, bolts and materials to construct the cubby were all in one bag with no discerning labels. Hence, my need to become a student.

I think it is fair to say that I am not a handy man. I have limited skills when it comes to carpentry, building or for that matter, anything really too manual or requiring construction skills. However, I was keen to learn and looking forward to the challenge. First stage, the instructions indicated “put up the four walls.” After a considerable degree of frustration and annoyance trying to figure out which screws went where, I finally managed to follow the instructions.

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What I began to think about whilst I was immersed in the process was the skills that I was required to use in order to complete the task. I reflected upon the Habits of Mind that formed an aspect of our teaching and learning framework. In the Habits there are sixteen habits that are conducive to highly effective learning. The first I came across was persisting with a task. The option to quit and just pay someone to build the cubby was pretty real. However, I resisted the urge and persisted to complete the task. Secondly, the habit of striving for accuracy was crucial to enable the four walls and ultimately, the roof to stay upright. I also used another habit, which is, to apply past knowledge to new situations. Obviously I had a little experience building some fairly basic things, so I knew how to operate a drill, I knew that the cubby should be squared off and level and I knew I needed to just remain calm, manage my impulsivity and think logically about how to problem solve the issues.

Now I’m not going to lie, I did have a number of screws left over and I did move the cubby to a new location (uneven floor). However, this is another aspect of thinking flexibly and taking responsible risks. The final habit I would like to highlight is responding in wonderment and awe. The final product provides me (and more importantly, my daughter) with a great opportunity to bond and enjoy the (extremely) difficult process of not just building, but also of having to become a student, to learn and to practise the skills that are crucial for life and learning.

As we enter the final term, I encourage students to find joy in developing skills that they will use in all facets of their life. Enjoy the struggle and complexity of learning new things and enjoy the opportunity to be challenged.

I am thankful that I built the cubby but I’m even more pleased that I was able to utilise skills taught to me way back when I was at school to complete a task that I know will bring happiness to a loved one. You never know what you might use in life!

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