Friday, July 29, 2016

Growth Mindset

I attended a conference today called "Better Together." It's the CA Teacher's Summit where thousands of teachers get together all over the state and talk about subjects that interestest them regarding education. We teach and learn from each other. I participated in a group that talked about Digital Citizenship, one that focused on Social Justice, and one group where teachers talked about Growth Mindset.
You may remember that I blogged about Growth Mindset back in March when I talked about What Motivates Students. No one is "good at Science" or "bad at Reading." We all just have different rates at which we learn, dependent on so many factors. But if I say, "I don't do Math well," it's true! Not because it was true before I thought it, but by thinking it (or saying it), I shut my mind off to learning. Does that make sense?

Growth Mindset keeps our brains open and learning. It's a way of thinking and talking about ourselves and others that encourages determination, fortitude, and the desire to endure. Stick-to-it-ive-ness. Don't-give-up-itude. 

Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset
Take a look at the image "What Can I Say To Myself?" Encourage yourself and others to maintain a Growth Mindset because studies show that that is how the mind works best! The brain actually develops new neural pathways when we struggle with something and make mistakes. Not giving up helps us learn.

And furthermore, all of us lifelong learners can direct our own education. There is so much information online! What do you want to learn? I encourage my students to watch TEDtalks and learn about topics that interest them. Today, I watched this video that you may enjoy:

In The Nerd's Guide to Learning Everything Online, John Green talks about YouTube being a classroom where people direct their own learning in a collaborative setting.

I am doing my best to make my classroom a place where students want to come and participate enthusiastically in their own educations. I foster Growth Mindset within myself and others. I believe "Your ability and confidence will grow with your effort."

Let's all train our brains to grow by not giving up. It won't be easy, but it'll be worth it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

People are complex and multidimensional, unlike Percy Jackson

Mrs. Dodds from the Lightning Thief
before she turns into the Fury
This week I watched The Lightning Thief for the first time with my daughter. I liked the special effects. I was particularly fond of the substitute teacher who turned into the Fury flying around inside the museum. She was ANGRY. "Give me the lightning bolt or I will bite your heart out!"

What I didn't like was how shallowly the main character, Percy Jackson, was portrayed. He didn't express any emotions. When he thought his mom was dead, he was like, "Meh," shoulder shrug, "I guess I better kill this Minotaur." He didn't scream or cry. He didn't even look shocked. See for yourself: 

His hollowness continued throughout this fictional movie. People just aren't like that. People have raw feelings-- lots of them, sometimes at the same time. In this scene, I would imagine Percy is scared (terrified even) and angry and confused and devastated. AND he is brave because he moves forward anyway, even though he is (in my version) shaking with fear. He attacks and defeats the Minotaur and heads off to learn about who he really is. But first, I wanted him to acknowledge his sadness. His mom, who he loves so dearly, just got exploded into flames. Without depth of emotion, I just can't ever like Percy Jackson in this movie. There were so many opportunities to show a really multidimensional character, and I think this movie failed.

Lest you think this is a movie review, let me get to my point.

Students, teachers, parents, administrators, neighbors, cafeteria workers... Everyone has a multitude of feelings. We come to school even though we have full and overwhelming lives outside of our daytime schedule. Many students, for instance, have tons of emotions all at the same time. Imagine being excited about coming back to school (maybe you know exactly how that feels). At the same time, you feel worried about the new teachers. Is there a Mrs. Dodds among them? Maybe you're disturbed because you haven't been sleeping well or sad because of a death in the family. You may be thrilled about an upcoming birthday party or afraid because Math is hard for you. Maybe you're nervous about running into that boy that you saw over the summer. 

Having a full array of feelings is normal! Percy Jackson does not represent reality. He is a cardboard, lifeless caricature of a person. Sometimes it seems like it might be easier to act cool (and without emotion). You might be afraid to show how you feel because someone might make fun of you. Maybe you think it's weak to show your feelings, but I'm here to tell you that humans are complex creatures with a wealth of emotions. You and I have many layers to our personalities and how we feel. Showing who we really are is brave and strong.

"Fear" from Inside Out (Image labeled for
non-commercial re-use)
For instance, I am about to start working at a new school-- a whole new district, actually. Even though I have been teaching at a middle school for over a decade and maybe I know some things about teaching, I am nervous about this transition. I've left all of the colleagues I know, and I'm joining a whole new team. What if I don't fit in? What if I'm inadequate? What if my students don't like me? 

At the same time that I am nervous and fearful, I am thrilled! I can't wait to try something new. To prepare myself for this adventure, I have been reading a ton over the summer and getting to know other Chico Unified employees. I have been reaching out and asking for help. I have spent some time personalizing my new classroom so I feel more comfortable there. This week, I will attend a training and learn new skills. Meanwhile, I am also planning a wedding about which I am enthusiastic and overwhelmed. This is exciting stuff!

I feel confident that I will be an effective teacher this year, and I will make mistakes. On some days I will feel successful and on others I may feel discouraged. When I get married in October, I hope you will celebrate my love with me. If someone close to me dies, I hope you will understand if I cry. I am not Percy Jackson in The Lightning Thief. Neither are any of you. We have personalities and feelings and a mosaic of emotions. We have a lot going on all the time that we may not be brave enough to share. I try to model for those around me how complex my humanity is. I will do my best to create a safe place for your humanity, too.