ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

A Whole Child Deserves a Whole Teacher

Post written by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick

Much is said and written about the whole child. We often forget, however, that we should also consider the whole adult. A teacher's performance in the classroom, and the resulting performances of the students, depend on a cluster of ingredients not the least of which are the teacher's attitudes and dispositions that we refer to as Habits of Mind, which concern not only what teachers can do (abilities) but also what they are likely to do. For example,

What is the likelihood that . . . Habit of Mind
they will persevere through disappointment and challenge in their teaching, spending additional time consulting others and reviewing and revising their decisions when hoped-for results have not occurred? Persisting
in the process of teaching and concentrating on the responses of an individual student, they use an eagle view of the classroom to monitor the entire class? Metacognition (Thinking about Thinking)
faced with stubborn problems, they can perceive them flexibly from various perspectives of the disappointed mother, the ambitious father, or the anxious child? Thinking Flexibly
they will take disappointments in stride and ask themselves how they can cope with and learn from these rather than blaming others? Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
they will insist on high-quality performance from themselves and their students and accept nothing less? Striving for Accuracy and Precision
they will regard teaching as a collaborative pursuit, engaging with others in applying systemic solutions to persistent problems? Thinking Interdependently

These are the questions that arise as teachers work in their classrooms every day. To develop the whole child, teachers need Habits of Mind that help them problem solve, become better critical thinkers, and communicate—to become whole teachers who manage their social, physical, emotional, and cognitive skills as they respond and interact with their students.

Noted educators Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick are coeditors of Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success and are the founding directors of the Institute for Habits of Mind, an international organization that is dedicated to transforming schools into places where thinking and Habits of Mind are taught, practiced, valued, and have become infused into the culture of the school and community.

Comments (6)

Lorraine Richardson

January 31, 2013

Effective teachers, especially urban teachers, must persist despite how uncomfortable the environment and must possess a wealth of problem solving skills. Also, they are problem seekers, rooting out challenges before they occur. Firm, fair, consistent, and persistent; they often possess an iron will.


January 31, 2013

A sense of being valued as a critical part of the educational team has a lot to withhow a teacher will perform. A professional and problem-solving attitude can be greatly enhanced by positive administrative support.


January 31, 2013

I have been incorporating Habits of the Mind into my teaching since I first read about them in 2007.  I also share the list with parents so that they, too, can incorporate these 16 things into the daily routines.

As a parent, I find myself referring to the list as well. It is a great scaffold for building strong relationships and developing resilient children.


February 1, 2013

I completely agree that both students and teachers need Habits of Mind to optimize the learning experience. 

As a parent and an advisor to other parents on how their students can better succeed in college - your article is on point.

Thank you.


February 2, 2013

My concerns regarding teachers and the “whole teacher” deal with the quality of life the teacher has personally.  Personal problems with relationships, parenting, and other domestic issues, creep into the classrooms and into the lives of students.  I am looking for discussion on helping teachers cope with being more healthy human beings and therefore more capable of being professionals in this manner.


February 4, 2013

I taught for nearly 30 years using Habits of Mind before knowing the correct term.  Passing this way of thinking on to students and watching them become better students and better people was a true joy,  When one is in a classroom setting where habits of mind are not being integrated on every level, the atmosphere is crushing.  No joy in teaching or learning can be found there.

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