4 Ways To Build Students’ Habits of Success

Summit Sparks Podcast Recap: Habits of Success

At the close of each month on the Summit Sparks podcast, we reflect on the different perspectives we’ve heard from our guests. In October, we discussed Habits of Success  — the behaviors, mindsets, and dispositions critical for success in college and career. If we want students to be their own best advocates, open and curious to new ideas, and aware of their strengths and passions, these habits are essential.

Diverse Perspectives on Habits of Success

Habits of Success are just one of Summit Public Schools’ four student outcomes, and we’ll explore the other three outcomes — Cognitive Skills, Content Knowledge, and Sense of Purpose — on the podcast over the next three months.

Each of our podcast guests this month has a different background and has played a different role in the lives of students. This diversity in guests is intentional to foster a well-rounded conversation that informs and inspires.

This month, we interviewed a director of personalized learning, a former child psychiatrist and nonprofit founder, a parent, and a student mentor. Here’s what we learned:

4 Ways To Build Habits of Success in Students 

1. Cultivate Safe Environments and Trusting Relationships

Building Habits of Success, as we heard from Turnaround for Children’s Dr. Pamela Cantor, starts with intentionally creating safe environments and encouraging a culture of acceptance in the classroom and at the whole school level.“What causes children to feel physically and emotionally safe?” Cantor asks. “For most children, it is that they have trustful relationships with the adults and peers in their environment.”

Educators should create communities to celebrate student achievements, whether it be passing a content assessment after the fourth try or recognizing a student who has stepped out of their comfort zone to try something new.

2. Get Students Thinking About Their Future

Students need a safe place to fail and grow, where communication lines are always open between teachers, students, and families, and where students are encouraged to explore their passions and individual paths. Payal Patel, the parent of a middle-school student at a Summit school, shares how this environment of support has allowed her son to open up about his passion for photography and explore opportunities for aligning that with future education and career goals:

“Our mentor was talking to my son about what he wants to do in 10 years from now — what does that look like, what does he need to do to even get to that place. We weren’t just talking about school goals… We were talking what it would take for him to be happy at 10 years from now, what that looks like, how college plays into that of course, but we talked about what he’s passionate about, and it had nothing to do with a school project. It was literally like, What makes your heart sing? What are you passionate about? What do you love to do?“

3. Offer Long-Term Mentorship

At Summit Schools and through the Summit Learning Program, mentorship is the foundation for building a sense of trust and community. Sazan Gafur, a former teacher and now mentor at Summit Rainier, finds that serving as a mentor is what keeps her coming back for more:

“I would say that mentoring is what gets me out of bed each morning,” Ghafur says. “It’s something that I look forward to the most out of my day. Because it is something that is so incredibly rewarding, to just see the growth that students make.”

These relationships don’t happen overnight, which is why it’s so important that students have the opportunity to get to know their mentors not just over the course of a few days or months, but throughout their middle- and high-school experience.

4. Model the Mindset

Fostering perseverance and discipline in students starts with adults modeling those very skills. If we want students to discover the intrinsic motivation to become autonomous learners, we — as educators, parents, and community members — must commit to students and meet them where they’re at. While we assess their progress in developing these behaviors and mindsets, the point isn’t to give a grade or to judge a single act in a fixed place and time, but to understand that student’s growth journey along a spectrum of development.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy’s Kourtney Bauswell connects the dots between mentoring and mindset.

“When I looked at that data, I saw the growth that our kids made and it was really exciting, but I just couldn’t help but think that there were a few kids who, in looking at their scores from last year, I think that the mindset shifted, that they took the test that much more seriously,” Bauswell says. “I’m not sure that would’ve happened if they didn’t feel like they had an advocate in this building pushing them to be the best they could be.”

Tune in to the Summit Sparks podcast the first week of November, when we’ll be starting the conversation around Cognitive Skills — what these look like in today’s learners, best practices for developing these skills, and why transfer is an essential quality in youth and adults alike.

Want to learn more about Habits of Success and the other three Summit Learning student outcomes? Download our white paper, The Science of Summit, or the condensed guide, for a deeper dive. 

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About the author

Lauren Faggella
A storyteller and former educator, Lauren Faggella is dedicated to turning the Summit Learning community's stories and ideas into great content that informs and inspires a range of audiences. Prior to joining Summit Public Schools, Lauren was a professional freelance writer and third-grade teacher in Rhode Island. She earned her MEd from the University of Rhode Island and BA in English from Elon University.