Building Materials Part 2: The How?


In the previous post about how habits are like the building materials of life, I mentioned some of the habits I assist my students to form during their time with me.  In this blog, I am going to to give you some ideas of how I help the students form these habits of success.

They have a  passion for learning.

  • One word: choice.  I know we all have the same standards that we HAVE to teach, but we are not told HOW to teach them.  That is up to us; to be creative, to form to our students needs; to form to our students' liking; to give the content a purpose.  Once we present choices to our students, it puts their learning into their own hands.

They show growth in the area of independence.

  • One word: mentor.  The moment I walk into the classroom, I am a mentor to those students.  I guide. I lead. The students are unsure about this way of teaching at first because they are not used to this “way.” but as the school year continues, they become more confident. For example: one of my leadership roles is “Fact Finder.” This student is to find and post facts about anything they would like.  The first question that arises from this role is, “What do you want me to look up?”  My answer: “Anything that interest you.” Not only am I creating passion because of choice, but I am entrusting them with the knowledge that they gain.

They are seekers of information.

  • One word: inquire.  We do not always know the answers to questions that we have or curiosity that comes from life, and we should not settle with not knowing more.  How many times a day do you get, “How do you spell this word?” or “What is the _______?” My response… “You have the answer at your fingertips. Research it and if you cannot figure it out, ask someone else.”  Trust me, after a while, they will stop asking and just start doing.

They have a “not-okay” attitude of failure.

  • One word: transparency.  I am honest with my students when I fail or make a mistake, but it doesn’t end there.  I reflect out loud expressing what I believe to be the cause, my next steps, and what i have learned from the experience.  I will never forget standing in front of my class, after grading a Learning Check for the week, and breaking down.  Over half of the class failed. I stood their vulnerable to their reactions, but they new I felt like I had failed as their teacher, and I was not okay with it.  I had a conversation with them of why this was the outcome.  (I know this is not a standard in the Common Core and yes, I was using instructional time, but it was a life lesson.) We spent about 20 minutes planning out our next steps with answers to questions like… what can I do to help you be more successful, what more can you do, and so on.  The following week, no one failed. We revisited our conversation from the week before, and how reflecting and making a plan helped us to not fail.  

They are friends.

  • One word: understanding.  From the first word out of my mouth at the beginning of the school year, throughout the year, and until they leave me… I preach understanding and differences and it is not about fairness.  One of my pet peeves is hearing a child say, “But that is not fair.”  Our creator made everyone different and that is just how it is. Some children need a behavior chart, some need an extra hug, some need comfort, some need stability, some need more warnings than others… Chick-fil-a released a series of books, along with Franklin Covey, 10 years ago or so, and every year, I read those at the beginning of the year to set an atmosphere of understanding and friendships.  

They have an openness to try something new.

  • One word: confidence.  This does not come easy to all, especially to my mastery learners.  However, they quickly learn there are two outcomes when you try something new… success or failure. They are always scared of failure at first, until you give them the list of historical names who failed, but kept going.  This always leads into a biography study because the students get interested in the figures, and become curious. I always end with the question, “What if this person had quit after his/her failed attempt? How would that affected you, your family, or the world?”

They are not afraid to take risks.

  • One word: comfort. Students are less likely to take risks if they are in an environment where they will be ashamed or pointed at for wrong answers.  Students must be comfortable and supported in their environment.  Think about when and where you take risks. How do you feel in those places? Who are you surrounded by?  Every time I take a risk, I tell my students that I am not sure how this is going to work, but we are going to try it together and deal with the outcome.  One of the biggest risks I took this year was being susceptible to reactions from staff, parents, community, and students about my classroom being a flexible learning environment.  In the end, the risk paid off.  Parents and students were fine with the setup.  If I am not taking risks in front of them, they are not going to either.

They become leaders of their own learning.

  • One word: opportunities.  So often we want control, but what if we let that go.  I am not referring to the first day of school because this is a process for the teacher and the student.  To see this occur, I spent an hour a week coaching my students through Genius Hour.  With support, they quickly became leaders of their own learning. We must give them the opportunities to be leaders of their own learning, even if that means loosening the reins a little.

They develop a love for technology.

  • One word: value. Students need to know that technology is more than a video game and how are they going to figure that out? YOU!  You must teach them to value the use of technology.  Many are curious about technology, but are unsure of how to use it efficiently.  This next statement may take you out of your comfort zone, but in order for your students to value the greatness of technology, they have to see that you value it as well.  I was in awe at the growth of my students this year, being 1:1 and how much they learned… they left how-to pieces for next year’s class and screencasts.  

They show bravery to speak their opinions.

  • One word: differences.  We all have our own life masterpieces that are being added to on daily basis and everyone’s masterpiece looks different.  The ability for students to see that is not an easy to teach, but needs to be conquered. We have a “Kitchen Table Discussion” where students are given a prompt, time to think independently, chat with a group, then we come together as a whole. I role in this discussion is to start it by calling a name of a child, clear any misconceptions, and make sure everyone is being heard.  There are no raising of hands… it is pure and valuable discussion.

These habits are vital to a strong and long-lasting shelter of success.  I know I am only one piece, but together, we as educators, can help to build the shelter of success for our future.


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