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"At best, schools teach one-billionth of one percent of the knowledge that exists in the universe, yet we quibble endlessly over what one-billionth of one percent is important."

- Seymour Papert

Growth mindset and those so-called "soft skills" have become very important to me, over the years. As I've grown in this profession, and ceded more and more control to my students over their own learning, the quote, above, seems more relevant today than it did when Papert wrote it, back in 1998. In my classroom, I always try to teach like Google exists:

To that end, the English teacher with whom I used to team teach and I developed a structure that revolves around growth mindset and our 4 core values: Resilience, Innovative Thinking & Inquiry, Connection (Collaboration & Communication), & Empathy. We took those core values and used them to categorize Costa and Kallick's (1996) Habits of Mind:

  • Resilience

    • Persisting: Sticking to task at hand; Follow through to completion; Can and do remain focused; Communicate progress.

    • Striving for Accuracy: Check for errors; Measure at least twice; Nurture a desire for exactness, fidelity & craftsmanship.

    • Taking Responsible Risks: Willing to try something new and different; Consider doing things that are safe and sane even though new to me; Face fear of making mistakes or of coming up short and don’t let this stop me.

    • Remaining Open to Continuous Learning: Open to new experiences to learn from; Proud and humble enough to admit when you don't know; Welcome new information on all subjects.

  • Innovative Thinking & Inquiry

    • Thinking Flexibly: Able to change perspective; Consider the input of others; Generate alternatives; Weigh options.

    • Questioning and Posing Problems: Ask myself, “How do I know?”; develop a questioning attitude; Consider what information is needed, choose strategies to get that information; Consider the obstacles needed to resolve.

    • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations: Use what is learned; Consider prior knowledge and experience; Apply knowledge beyond the situation in which it was learned.

    • Creating, Imagining, Innovating: Think about how something might be done differently from the “norm”; Propose new ideas; Strive for originality; Consider novel suggestions others might make.

  • Connection

    • Managing Impulsivity: Take time to consider options; Think before speaking or acting; Remain calm when stressed or challenged; Thoughtful and considerate of others; Proceed carefully.

    • Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision: Strive to be clear when speaking and writing; Strive be accurate to when speaking and writing; Avoid generalizations, distortions, minimizations and deletions when speaking, and writing.

    • Gathering Data through All Senses: Stop to observe what I see; Listen to what I hear; Take note of what I smell; Taste what I am eating; Feel what I am touching.

    • Thinking Interdependently: Willing to work with others and welcome their input and perspective; Abide by decisions the work group makes even if I disagree somewhat; Willing to learn from others in reciprocal situations.

  • Empathy

    • Listening with Understanding and Empathy: Pay attention to and do not dismiss another person's thoughts, feeling and ideas; Seek to put myself in the other person's shoes; Tell others when I can relate to what they are expressing; Hold thoughts at a distance in order to respect another person's point of view and feelings.

    • Responding with Wonderment and Awe: Intrigued by the world's beauty, nature's power and vastness for the universe; Have regard for what is awe-inspiring and can touch my heart; Open to the little and big surprises in life I see others and myself.

    • Finding Humor: Willing to laugh appropriately; Look for the whimsical, absurd, ironic and unexpected in life; Laugh at myself when I can.

    • Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition): Being aware of own thoughts, feelings, intentions and actions; Knowing what I do and say affects others; Willing to consider the impact of choices on myself and others.

We call it RICE, and we've created RICE Awards to recognize and celebrate kids when we, or their peers, catch them following these principles. We give them certificates that mean a lot more to them than we thought, and a Rice Krispy Treat. It's been great for at least making the kids mindful of that growth mindset.

This is the first year we implemented this, and we thought it went pretty well. It became part of the culture of our room, and the kids would get genuinely bummed when we had to skip a Friday for some reason. I had a 9th grade parent tell me that her son actually went home and put it on the refrigerator.


We would like to improve, however, getting the kids involved with nominations. We had a couple, but we really want the kids to look for these traits in their classmates - catch them doing something good. Now that we have a handle on what RICE means, next year we want to begin incorporating it into our curricula. We believe that if the kids can identify these things in historical or literary figures, not only will they be able to better recognize it in others, but will hopefully see how those figures relate to their own experiences.

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