Habits of the Heart and Mind and Why They Matter

Culture is an important part of education. If you say that your school does not have a culture, then you should look carefully at how people act when they are at your school. How do students and teachers interact? Do you notice a difference in how people act towards each other when you go from one school to another. You do have a culture, but is it the culture that you want?

I have mentioned before some simple things you can do to enhance the culture in your classroom. Yet all of these ideas flow from our school culture which we take very seriously.

Where does our culture come from? How was it formed? When our school was developed, there was a discussion about what was important for us to see in each other, in our students, and in our interactions. We were inspired by the Habits of Mind from Debbie Meier's Coalition of Essential Schools and how they were able to work with students in creating a positive and supportive place for them.

At our school the Habits of the Heart and Mind are:

or as one of our teachers puts it REMPPCC (pronounced REM P squared C squared)

These are what we ask everyone at our school to seek to cultivate within themselves and reach their full potential as a student but also as a human being.

Refinement - If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well (and over again if necessary). This is so contrary to a system that has so much information to cover and so little time to do it. Yet, the benefits of not accepting anything less than Beautiful Work makes all the difference.
Evidence - Can I back up what I am saying? Can I prove that I am learning and apply it?
Mindfulness - It is impossible to harm or do wrong when one is mindful. To be thinking about ones actions and the consequences or results of those actions is invaluable. Our society needs mindful leaders and citizens.
Perspective - Going beyond one's self and seeing a conflict, problem, or issue from multiple points of view. It is easier to compromise and reach agreement when we understand where others are coming from.
Perseverance - Randy Pausch in his last lecture said , "Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something." The best stuff is worth working hard for.
Cooperation - Best exemplified in Dr. Woodie Flowers' Gracious Professionalism Ethos. We can work together for mutual benefit even in that which we are competing.
Compassion - To share in one's struggles and help them out can be the most rewarding thing one ever does. If you have the ability to help, then please do so.

Each school or organization may need to come up with additional or other ones, these are not set in stone but they give all of us a framework for discussions about what kind of person we hope to be and help others become when they enter our school. Perhaps at your next professional development or staff meeting, you could consider discussing what is core to your culture or what you would like to be, and then see how you can weave that into everything you do in a meaningful authentic way.