BC proudly introduces students to a new program called ‘Habits of Mind’

Myrissa Johns, News Editor

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A major initiative by Bakersfield College faculty and staff, called “Habits of Mind,” started at the beginning of the spring semester and is becoming a big part of many professors’ goals, which students might have noticed by the new link connected with some of the syllabi.
Habits of Mind is about giving students the tools and resources they need to help them achieve success.
“I am more excited about this than I have been about things in BC for a long, long time,” Dean of Instruction Bonnie Suderman said. “This really gives students the resources and skills they need to be successful on their own. These are skills that when you talk to employers, they’re also looking for the same thing.”
Associate professor of history Erin Miller, a key player in the initiative, said she believes that an important part of Habits of Mind is that it is offering students a sense of empowerment and control, which will lead to success.
“I think that Habits of Mind empowers students to overcome the challenges they face in school and in life so they can go on to live their dreams,” Miller said.
“The real theory behind Habits of Mind is that it’s not an absence of obstacles that determines whether you succeed or not, it’s whether you choose to submit to them,” she said, explaining that there are many students who face obstacles and that’s not something that any of the professors or other faculty or staff can change, but they can teach them the skills and make them aware of the habits that can help them overcome the obstacles. Planning for Habits of Mind started at the end of May 2013, after Suderman and a team of BC faculty and staff went to explore what other schools were doing with similar programs in greater detail. She explained that once she heard about similar programs and started asking around, it turned out that a lot of people from other departments had already been wanting to start such a program.
Miller explained that at the time that the program started becoming a discussion, a lot of faculty and staff were talking about Jaime Escalante, the instructor that the movie “Stand and Deliver” is based on.
Miller said the fact that he was able to motivate his students, who suffered a major skill deficit, and give them the tools they needed to succeed, inspired her and her colleagues and made them question what he did that they could try.
“So what Jaime Escalante says is, A, you have to have a relationship with your students. B, you have to have high expectations of them. C, you have to give them the tools to achieve those expectations, and you have to expect hard work from them,” Miller said. “You have to treat them with respect.
“We don’t raise student success by lowering our standard, we raise student success by having a relationship with them, and if you ask students who their favorite professors are, it’s going to be the ones that they believe care about students and are invested.”
According to Miller, there are many ideas and tools that are going to be accessible to students, but since it is such a massive program, it will be rolling out little by little. However, many tools are already being made available through classes and on the website and app.
“Let’s face it, overcoming bad habits takes a lot of work, adopting good, new habits takes a lot of work,” she said. “So we want to give students the opportunity in the classroom, with their advisers, and all around campus to just constantly create patterns of habits that are going to let them succeed.”
The Habits of Mind team is aiming to get students’ attention and appeal to as many different kinds of people as possible through banners, student testimonials, T-shirts, buttons, a website, an app, and other methods. According to Miller, the marketing is aimed to create a dialogue between students and faculty, to get them questioning.
Miller used the buttons as an example, explaining that the team has created buttons with “funny slogans that don’t really make sense” so that students will ask, “What does ‘do you SW/OT’ mean?” for example. Then the faculty or staff would explain that it means, “Do you study without texting?” Are you focused?
Another slogan that has been adopted by Habits of Mind and can be found on its website is, “It’s POSSIBLE at Bakersfield College,” which is an acronym meaning Persist, Organize, Strive for Success, Stay Involved, Innovate, Be Focused, Learn for Life, and Emphasize Integrity. BC Student Government Association has been “instrumental in planning,” according to Miller, who said that it was a big part of the idea for the app and “POSSIBLE” slogan, among other things. SGA and some of the Habits of Mind team members’ classes have been a big part of student feedback, as the team aims to have the program fit closely with student needs.
Although the Habits of Mind initiative is a major time commitment, the work put forth by the team is completely voluntary, according to Suderman. Miller explained that she feels that a major reason why she, and many of her colleagues, are so willing to give so much of their free time is because, prior to the initiative, they externally focused what they could change to create student success, always focusing on how they could restructure their classes in order to promote success. Habits of Mind has given them a way to give students the skills to succeed, without lowering standards.
According to Miller, the initiative is also helping faculty and staff to be better, as they want to be positive role models and exemplify the habits they aim to instill in their students.

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