The Teacher You Want to Be: Heidi Mills On Why Children’s Beliefs Matter

The process that propels our professional growth parallels the process that promotes growth and change in our students’ beliefs and practices. After years of investigation into the relationship between teachers’ beliefs and actions, I took a close look at the process with Tim O’Keefe and his second and third graders at the Center for Inquiry in Columbia, South Carolina. Tim and I were astonished when we realized the impact of his teaching on the kids’ beliefs about themselves as learners, the nature of content, learning strategies, and the world. As inquiry-based teachers, we naturally strive to teach content and the skillfulness of inquiry in concert. We devote the same level of attention to teaching children how to learn as we do to teaching them what to learn. Both perspectives matter. However, Tim and I were truly surprised once we realized his children were constructing beliefs as well as learning strategies and content knowledge. Once we realized we were about the business of shaping children’s beliefs, we began asking a new question as we planned: What are the beliefs we want to nurture about content, the learning process, and kids’ identities and sense of agency?

—Heidi Mills

The Teacher You Want To Be: Essays About Children, Learning, and Teaching, edited by Matt Glover and Ellin Oliver Keene, is available now.

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