Brendan Largay
Brendan Largay, Head of School

BrendanLargay, Head of School

Creating Great Habits and Even Better Mistakes

Welcome back, everyone! I hope you enjoyed a great vacation week.

Typically, I use the April break to catch up on the books and magazine articles I have placed on my proverbial bedside table, and this year was no different. As I chipped away at that pile, two articles have occupied my thinking as we returned to school this week.

The first comes from Peter Becker, the head of the Taft School, an alma mater that Peter and I share. He wrote to his community about creating the conditions for optimal student learning—those that promote the development of habits of mind, academic discipline, and maintenance of focus and attention—to meet with success in today’s classrooms and the future workforce as we contend with the distractions of technology.

At Belmont Day, creating the conditions for student learning begins with fostering our core values in each of our students. 

The skills and habits of attention begin in pre-kindergarten as students design games and harvest potatoes in the school garden; these habits of mind carry through to eighth grade as students embrace a yearlong research study and engage in new environments and cultural experiences in the Southwest. The growth in these moments at each end of a Belmont Day education is as remarkable as the skill development achieved through Singapore math, Fundations, or a Capstone presentation.

The second article came via the Marshall Memo, a weekly summary of current educational research and news curated by Kim Marshall, consultant, writer, and “designated reader” for pre-k to grade 12 educators. This week’s memo included a summary of an Edutopia article titled, ‘Tapping Into the Metacognition of Mistakes.’ The author, Andrew Boryga, writes, “It’s a positive development in K-12 schools that students are increasingly being encouraged to see mistakes and ‘productive struggle’ as a helpful part of the learning process.” 

Boryga goes further into the subject to categorize what he sees as three types of mistakes:

  • Sloppy – mistakes that can and should be avoided in the future by slowing down, proofreading, and being more attentive to accuracy
  • ‘A-Ha!’ – mistakes that result in more learning and discovery
  • Stretch – mistakes that are a byproduct of moving beyond our comfort zone into new and challenging territory of discovery 

The author encourages educators to design and create safe learning environments that will allow for all three types of mistakes. Excellent teachers, including our Belmont Day faculty, guide their students through them toward more meaningful and lasting learning.

These two articles speak to the heart of teaching and learning in our classrooms at Belmont Day, where growth and challenge are realized in our successes and failures. The authors acknowledge excellence in teachers who understand how every moment provides students with a chance to grow. Both speak to hope, what we know and love about education, and a conversation so many of us who occupy educational spaces are eager to engage in.

BrendanLargay, Head of School

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