The essential meaning of each of the 8 Successful Learners traits is emphasized and purposely kept succinct on the posters. Here the broader meaning for each trait provides teachers with a deeper background understanding.


Compassion comes from the ability, and the willingness, to understand others. It requires seeing from a perspective other than our own by being open-minded and tolerant. Compassion is active and internally driven. The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, and means “co-suffering.” Once we see and understand, compassion includes the willingness to go out of one’s way in order to act on the behalf of another. Having empathy, being kind, inclusive, fair, respectful, open-hearted, and ethical are aspects of compassion.

The Compassion we cultivate within our students involves teaching both social and emotional intelligence: the ability to read a social setting, bring understanding to it, and respond compassionately. At a young age, this may simply involve one child helping another child pick up a set of dropped crayons. A more sophisticated level of compassion might be witnessing a peer’s emotional struggle in an unjust social interaction. Reading the body language, bringing understanding to the social context and individual, and then following through with kindness is the kind of compassion we seek to cultivate.

We also teach that compassion is an act extended to oneself. This requires helping our learners to develop self-awareness and self-understanding. Being able to recognize, for example, that unrealistic standards of perfection often creates stress and anxiety. Helping students to recognize such tendencies, then bring lightness, patience, and kindness towards themselves is just as important as extending compassion to others.

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Creativity is the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, and to generate solutions. Creativity also involves the ability to adapt or modify known solutions, or processes, into something completely new. The creative mind is divergent, innovative, entrepreneurial and often adept at finding increasingly efficient and effective solutions. Coming up with smart shortcuts is creative!

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Enthusiasm is about having an optimistic outlook and a keen interest in life and learning! Being open, engaged, and motivated are hallmarks of enthusiasm. This competency carries with it a sense of hope, a joy of applying oneself, and an attitude of willingness! A growth mindset goes along with this trait, as setbacks or mistakes are taken in stride and viewed as important lessons to future growth. The most powerful way of teaching enthusiasm is to embody it, and secondly to unpack its component parts and teach it explicitly!  

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Self-confidence is the positive belief in oneself and abilities. A Confident individual has a positive self-image, is flexible, optimistic, resilient and can self-advocate. Self-confidence is rooted in personal identity: having an understanding and connection to one’s familial roots, one’s culture and sense of place. Confidence and identity are also connected by cultivating one’s interests and passions; it includes self-awareness and the acceptance of both strengths and aptitudes as well as ones limitations and challenges. As we cultivate confidence within our students, we teach the importance of identifying and working-to-strengths as well as accepting constructive feedback. A growth mindset is inextricably connected with self-confidence.

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Risk-taking is straightforward. It is the willingness to try something new or challenging that requires one to push through uncertainty. It’s about having the courage and inner resolve. Risk-taking includes having discernment; that ability to weigh out whether or not the risk justifies the benefits. We encourage our students to think about the advantages and disadvantages of taking risks. Risk-takers tend to be enterprising and entrepreneurial as they demonstrate a boldness to take new or unknown paths!

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Being Strategic is that ability to plan ahead and see the end product, and to figure out how to efficiently and effectively get from the beginning to the end. To this end, a Strategic individual is someone who plans ahead, who is resourceful and organized. Planning ahead often includes doing a rough plan, a web, or an outline before embarking on a job. Being resourceful is the ability to access what you need in order to get a job done. This may involve listening carefully to instructions, seeking expert advice, asking for help, or finding the materials needed to accomplish a task. Being Strategic also involves being organized which includes not only the organization of materials, but also of one’s thinking and time. Strategic individuals are often effective at taking shortcuts because they can see all the steps ahead and know which ones can easily be circumvented. Strategic learners tend to be very efficient and derive great economy for their effort because they ‘work smart’!

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Being Industrious is about working hard and having the determination and stamina to see a job through to completion. Persevering through set backs, having tenacity and grit are included in this trait. Industrious learners make good use of time, they get started right away and stay focussed and committed to the task at hand. Being industrious also includes taking initiative and being proactive!

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There is a lot packed into being Thoughtful, or thinking! Being Thoughtful starts with curiosity,  being a keen observer, and asking questions. From here, recognizing patterns, making connections, inferring, predicting, formulating hypothesis, reasoning and using critical judgement come into play. Another very important aspect of being Thoughtful is the ability to self-reflect. We can teach our students to self-reflect by observing and noticing aspects of their work that fulfills goals based on criteria and identify their next steps for learning.

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