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Learning to Take Responsible Risks

Andrea Fanjoy
Upon learning that a classmate had never eaten grapes or oranges, a grade one KCS student exclaimed, “You should take a responsible risk, Nathen. Try some!”
 
Taking responsible risks is what Nathen and his classmate are learning at KCS. What would you have said?
 
The right habits will prepare you to deal with anything life throws your way, ready or not. Habits work covertly. They don’t tax conscious thought. They often shape our character, and influence every action. They are underappreciated and underleveraged in education. Not at KCS.
 
Habits of Mind will shape how you think and learn. Habits of Body will ensure you are physically capable and strong. Habits of Action will guide you in doing what’s best. With the right Habits, everything else falls into place – learning, working, and living to our potential, regardless of circumstance. Developing the right habits is an appropriate and increasingly critical role for 21st century education.
 
Last year, KCS launched what it means by the tagline, “Knowing What Matters in Life”. We have identified 26 habits that we aim to establish in our students, habits that will undeniably prepare them to not only face but also thrive in the 21st century, personally, academically and in whatever activity they choose to undertake throughout their lives. Inspired by the 16 Habits of Mind developed by Art Costa, and drawing from the commentary and research from an array of fields, we have created a list we believe is complete - a list worthy of the serious attention it receives, a list worthy of school-wide focus, a list that has habits of relevance for every subject, every experience at school, and everything that happens outside of school.
 
Here are the Habits that matter:

KCS Habits of Mind include:
Persisting and focusing

Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

Managing impulsivity

Being curious and open-minded, gathering data through all senses, sources and perspectives

Listening with understanding and empathy

Creating, imagining, innovating, inventing, being entrepreneurial

Thinking flexibly

Responding with wonderment, awe and appreciation

Thinking about thinking (metacognition)

Taking responsible risks

Striving for accuracy

Finding humour

Questioning and posing problems

Thinking interdependently and working collaboratively

Applying past knowledge to new situations

Remaining open to continuous learning


KCS Habits of Body include:
Ongoing physical activity as a healthy pattern throughout life

Knowledge and skill with, and appreciation for, dramatic arts, visual arts, musical performance, and dance


KCS Habits of Action include:
Following the three school rules of respect, manners and try our best

Acting according to what is right, whether based on values or facts

Taking initiative to solve problems and make the world a better place

Contributing to a shared body of knowledge, perspective and creative expression

Applying the 'Super Seven' learning skills that allow us to develop to our potential

Leading with the wisdom and compassion that stem from the Habits of Mind™

Acting with agility and adaptability
 
Experts from education and other sectors have voiced the critical need to develop these attributes in youth. Despite this, the primary focus in education, in terms of how time is spent and what students are assessed on, remains very clearly on the nuts and bolts of the traditional knowledge and skill-based curriculum. To be fair, all schools have worked to develop some of these attributes, either indirectly or by design. As an obvious example, “communicate clearly” is linked to all language instruction that has ever taken place. Most of the attributes, however, have either not been developed, been insufficiently developed, or even worked against  in most school models.
 
It’s like expecting apple crisp to come out of the oven when all preparation went into making lasagna.
 
At KCS, we don’t see these Habits as a byproduct of our curriculum, but as an increasingly significant focus. By design, we are doing what enough people have been asking schools to do, teach students to be lifelong learners. Our goal is to develop a companion curriculum and pedagogy to the hefty Ministry curriculum documents that focus on core content and skills. Applied together, all students will be better prepared than ever to not only be successful with their school subjects but also with the rest of their lives.
 
The Habits are guiding our efforts to do so. Flexible and creative thinking, and the willingness to take responsible risks, are taking us on a journey into the unknown. Embracing learning, striving for accuracy, doing what is right and persistence will help ensure the journey is wisely planned and worthwhile. We already have many stories from the past year, and elements to our program that are innovative and directly building the Habits. We look forward to sharing these in upcoming articles.
 
And at the end of the journey, we look forward to a great feast of lasagna, followed by apple crisp. Will you try some?
 
Andrea Fanjoy is Assistant Head, Academics at Kingsway College School

Our Habits of Mind, Body and Action can always be found at www.kcs.on.ca/Habits
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