Riverview School and Habits of a Scholar
For Middle School Parents
A tenet of growth mindset thinking is that we have control over what we excel at and what we don’t. If you spend enough time attempting to learn something, eventually you can learn it. Want to learn to play the guitar? Practice, take lessons, and practice some more. Through hard work and dedication over time, instead of strumming discord you’ll be strumming music. But does the same growth mindset belief apply to character education? The research indicates a resounding yes. Education writer Jessica Lahey notes that “schools that teach character education report higher academic performance, improved attendance, reduced violence, fewer disciplinary issues, reduction in substance abuse, and less vandalism. … Students who attend character education schools report feeling safer because they know their fellow students value respect, responsibility, compassion and hard work.”
Character clearly can be developed within a school culture for the benefit of an entire school community. Our new Habits of a Scholar program is the result of a district-wide effort to select the critical 21st century skills important to success in school and career. These habits, Executive Skills, Perseverance, Enthusiasm, Compassion, and Teamwork, form the acronym EXPECT and will be reinforced throughout the school year in the following ways:
CREW: Students have a CREW Class that they start the day with Monday through Friday. We set goals, track our progress, and then reflect on that progress. Additionally, we conduct mini-lessons focused on social-emotional and character development.
Report Card: Our quarterly report card will indicate your child’s progress on each of the ExPECT character skills.
Planner: This year we have a planner designed to promote student executive skills. We will be coaching and encouraging student planner use throughout the school day to teach time management and organization. Please check your child’s planner daily to discuss homework and projects currently being worked on and the learning topic in each class.
Missing Work Lists: An important measure of perseverance is overcoming challenges to bring work to completion. Please encourage your child to check in with teachers and regularly check their Infinite Campus in order to determine incomplete or missing work. We hope parents will play a role in encouraging students to complete assignments on time.
Growth Mindset: When students and teachers possess the belief that intelligence can be developed, they are exhibiting a "Growth Mindset." We improve, learn, and achieve excellence through hard work and effort. Challenges are stepping-stones to improvement not roadblocks to avoid. Approaching work with this mindset encourages our school community to focus on continuous improvement regardless of where we begin on the learning spectrum. At Riverview, it is not about how smart we are. It is about how hard we work. Growth Mindset is also the lens through which we teach our Habits of a Scholar EXPECT program, which you can learn more about below.
Riverview School | Habits of a Scholar
The Roaring Fork School District and Riverview School have identified and adopted 5 character traits that are critical to student success, which form the acronym, EXPECT. They are:
EXecutive Skills: Plans, organizes, and manages behaviors and responsibilities.
Why it’s important: Strong executive skills enable a child to stay focused, plan ahead, strategize, and recall information. Habits such as time management, organization, and the ability to start a task and sustain focus are not only pertinent to success in school, but success in future careers. While these skills improve as the brain develops, parents and schools can fast-track these skills through teaching and modeling.
How it can be modeled at home. (Tips from Ann Dolin, M.Ed.)
Get Your Child Started — Children can have difficulty getting themselves started, often because they feel overwhelmed or can’t muster enough energy to get going. You can help by breaking down seemingly large assignments into smaller, more manageable chunks. Be sure your child understands the directions and how to do the work before beginning.
Create a Break Menu — By establishing a “menu” of breaks and rewards, your child will be better able to sustain attention while doing homework. On 3×5 cards, list small rewards for your child to choose from after completing an assignment. Good options include shooting hoops, getting a snack, building with Legos, or playing with a pet. Knowing a break is coming may be just the encouragement needed to push through challenging work and tailor the breaks to suit your child’s interests.
Plan Ahead — Sit down with your child on a weekly basis to discuss upcoming projects and assignments. Encourage your child to look ahead to plan out the week by determining what needs to be accomplished each day. Seeing tasks written out in the planner will keep students on track and organized.
Take a Photograph — Children tend to need lots of encouragement to keep their rooms, backpacks, desks, and lockers organized. Take a photo of the one area that needs to stay organized. Now, post the picture in a highly visible place so your child can refer to it. This way, there will be a frame of reference for what the room or other area should look like when your child needs to clean it up. Many kids are unable to visualize what “clean” means. With this method, there’s no question about it!
Perseverance: Persists through challenges.
Why it’s important: Angela Duckworth’s research has demonstrated that a student’s “grit,” or ability to persevere, is a far better predictor of grade point average (GPA) and graduation than IQ measures or test scores. Perseverance is tightly tied to the growth mindset attitude of, “I can get better if I try harder,” which helps children develop into more determined and hard-working people.
How it can be modeled at home: (Tips from www.CenterforResilientChildren.org)
Create an Optimistic Mindset – Children who view themselves as “not good at math,” or “dumb” will have a much more difficult time succeeding in school than children who view themselves as capable, able to overcome barriers, and in the case of school performance, capable of learning. Helping our children develop an optimistic mindset is one of the most important things we can do as parents. One strategy toward that goal is to share with your children a life experience that required grit. Knowing that you had to overcome adversity can inspire your children to build confidence in their own abilities. A component in cultivating a child’s optimistic mindset depends in part on delivering effective praise.
Use Effective Praise – Ample research exists that demonstrates a positive correlation between how we praise a children’s efforts and their likelihood of persevering in the future. If we only praise children’s accomplishments or use language such as “you’re so smart!”, we run the risk of transmitting the idea that failure will be a disappointment to adults, which can actually discourage the likelihood that children will remain persistent in trying to reach their goals.
Show How to Cope with Setbacks – Inevitably, despite our children’s and our best efforts, children will suffer disappointments, setbacks and failures. Children (and adults) who have well-developed grit perceive setbacks as challenges to be overcome and failures as learning opportunities. When our children fail, we need to recognize their efforts, express confidence in their ability to learn from the situation, and help them identify what they could do differently in the future. To paraphrase a Chinese proverb, children with grit fall down twice and get up three times.
Share Stories of Perseverance with your Child - Sit down with your family to watch and discuss the short video, Life=Risk—Motivation. Like the Little Engine That Could, this video teaches all of us an important life lesson about the importance of grit.
Enthusiasm: Pursues passions and shows love of learning.
Why it’s important: Frederick Williamson observed, “The longer I live, the more certain I am that enthusiasm is the little recognized key to success." When our students enter the workplace, enthusiasm can impact not just getting a job but succeeding in that job and advancing in a careers. In fact, research shows that many employers would rather provide job skills training to an enthusiastic but inexperienced worker than hire someone with perfect qualifications but a less-than-positive attitude. Cultivating this skill may be the most important when considering future workplace ramifications.
How it can be developed at home:
Cultivate Relevance - Discuss long term goals with your child and help them link the relevance of their learning to their future success. Students who believe that education is important to their future are much more likely to be enthusiastic about learning at school.
Reinforce Learning at Home - Parents can breathe life into school learning by finding out what children are studying in school and then planning activities or initiating conversations that connect those topics to daily life. An example would be when children are studying the earth and the solar system, watch a sunset together. Ask them, “What is happening? Why is the sun disappearing?”
Build Enthusiasm - Enthusiasm about learning is contagious, and we have to make sure our kids catch it from us. Reading books and magazines for pleasure and by choice sends the message that reading is fun, not just something that has to be done for school. Talking about hobbies or interests or something you enjoyed learning that day also shows children that learning is enjoyable.
Compassion: Considerate and respectful of self, others and the world around us.
Why it’s important: One of the main benefits to cultivating compassion in your child’s life is that research shows that being compassionate builds happiness and happiness is contagious. Scientific studies also suggest there are physical benefits to practicing compassion — people who practice it produce 100 percent more DHEA, a hormone that counteracts the aging process, and 23 percent less cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
How it can be developed at home: (from Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., etc.)
Make a Gratitude List - This is especially helpful for turning the tide when a child is feeling down. Even a short list of a couple "I'm grateful for's" can make a difference. Have them write the whole sentence out: "I am grateful for this new day." "I am grateful my brother didn't punch me on the way to school." "I am grateful my parents love me." You get the idea...
Offer Kindness Each Day - Suggest a child do one kind act a day for another. Helping others gets those feel-good juices going. Suggest that they surprise a friend or family member with a gracious act. Or suggest doing something kind without anyone knowing. Ask them, how does that feel?
Talk to Yourself - Nicely - Sometimes we have to practice talking positively about ourselves and others. Have children think of one or two nice things to say about themselves, family members, and friends. They can make an ongoing list and stick it on the fridge as a reminder.
Participate in Community Service with your Child - Volunteer with your child to help build a trail, work in a soup kitchen, pick up trash, or even volunteer at Carbondale Middle School. Middle school students are watching and listening much more than we think.
Walk the Talk - Simply talking about compassion is not enough. A recent study found that while 96% of parents say they want to raise ethical, caring children, 80% of students reported parents were more concerned about achievement than caring for others. Whether you’re volunteering in the community or talking on the phone, model compassion and be aware of what’s called the “rhetoric/reality gap.”
Teamwork: Works with others to achieve a common goal
Why it’s important: People working in teams tend to learn more by their interactions with each other. Brainstorming sessions can help children view the same problem from different perspectives and arrive at the best possible solution. Additionally, working in a team helps children practice appropriate social interaction and grown into more confident and social individuals who are comfortable in their own skin.
How it can be developed at home:
Cultivate the Home Team - It will speak volumes to your teen if you display teamwork in your home or work environment, or with any of your group extracurricular activities. Reflect on these experiences with your child and point out examples of how conflict is resolved, how team members work together, and your appreciation for each team member’s role.
Build Perspective - Teens usually have a tough time understanding another perspective. You can give them a chance to reflect on different points of view by questioning. For instance, questions like, “Why do you think he turned away?” or “Why do you think she made a face like that?” or “how do you think he’s feeling?” If you ask questions like this, it will help the teen be mindful of others and build empathy.
Point out examples - Examples of teamwork in society abound. Point them out and ask questions. Give your child the opportunity to ask other adults about teamwork’s vital role in careers and society.