Secondary school English departments often strain at the seams from the weight of covering so much material. They are called upon to strengthen grammar basics, promote the importance of spelling, reinforce punctuation rules, and guide students in the purposeful study of literature. These many responsibilities weighed on my mind when I decided to integrate the Habits of Mind with the study of literature and writing in my 12th grade classroom. All the signs indicated that bad things could happen to a good idea if I allowed it to get lost among all the other demands on my time.
Even though my teaching days already were overloaded, I was drawn to research about critical-thinking methods. Adolescence is mysterious, for sure, and I had decided that although all my students could experience high-level thinking, they simply were not disposed to do it. When I began to introduce thinking skills, students tenaciously expressed the belief that thinking critically was a "natural" gift. In many cases, even those who saw themselves as "good students" felt the process was beyond their skills. I was driven by the question of why my students resisted problem solving and decision making.
The First Year