The Head's Tales: The “Personal” Matters

With increased attention on the Ministry’s redesigned curriculum and its focus on competencies rather than content, including the importance of personalized learning, I am starting to think about how schools might begin developing “the student” from the inside out.  What things can teachers and parents do to blend a person’s disposition, interests, and motivation to support academic growth?  How does one’s personality interact or influence an individual’s intelligence or ability to acquire new knowledge? How does one go about developing or strengthening those personality attributes that, over time, contribute to a person’s lifelong success? 

Research indicates that cognitive ability (IQ) refers to “what a person can do,” whereas personality traits may determine “what a person will do.”  The traits of self-control, self-efficacy/confidence, and openness to new experiences are strongly correlated to academic and long-term achievement. In addition, passion plays a pivotal role in motivating individuals to move forward when things are challenging and provides that impetus to persevere.  Without passion, you can’t do great work!

Self-confidence is linked to possessing certain knowledge, skills or abilities – whether innate or acquired.  As stated by Dr. Daisy Zhang-Negrerie, self-confidence is based on three factors:

  1. One’s own opinion of one’s personal inventory of skills, abilities, and achievements;

  2. The reflections of the opinions of others concerning one’s competencies; and

  3. One’s internal assessment of the opinions of others. 

All three factors work together to influence one’s self-confidence in any given situation. In addition, self-confidence is enhanced by learning from failure at an early age – to appreciate that confidence doesn’t come from fearing getting it right, but rather not fearing being wrong!  This shift in perspective can only open up possibilities for each of us rather than allowing ourselves to be held back by limitations.

Other attributes such as grit (conscientiousness/perseverance), empathy, and a growth mindset are also essential for long-term success and fulfilment. Creating an environment that celebrates these attributes but also provides deliberate practice is essential.  In fact, maybe these soft skills become the hard skills we need to pay attention to over and above the core competencies outlined in the redesigned curriculum! Developing “the person” is equally important when planning activities (such as Innovations, Explorations, and Clubs) and the types of interactions (including student to student, day to boarding, Big Sister to Little Sister, and mentors to mentees) we offer at school. 

Moving forward, SMS will be following the 21st Century Learning framework provided by Charles Fadel which includes the following dimensions:

  • Knowledge What we know and understand (connecting subjects and disciplines)

  • Skills How we use what we know (creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration)

  • Character How we behave and engage in the world (mindfulness, curiosity, courage, resilience, ethics, and leadership)

  • Meta-Learning How we reflect and adapt (growth mindset)

How we put knowledge into action is dependent upon how we draw from the character of our students, the skills and competencies we believe are necessary to be successful, and our ability to develop a growth mindset in each of our learners.

“The differences between expert performers and normal individuals are not due to genetically prescribed talent. Instead, these differences reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance”            

- K.A. Ericsson

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

 - John Dewey

Four Dimensional Education: The Competencies Learners Need to Succeed.  Charles Fadel. 2015
Counting What Counts.  Yong Zhao. 2016

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