Growth Mindset Moment

I find myself having a lot of these moments nowadays.  Since it’s my first year teaching 6th grade English Language Arts, I have been planning lessons with activities I am not sure will be a success.  I mean, the lessons go wonderfully in my mind.  But, you never know unless you try.

The week before we were to return to school after the winter break, I wondered what I would do with my students on the first day back.  I knew I wanted to do a writing genre study on memoirs.  I had been inspired after reading the book, Writing With Mentors: How To Reach Every Writer in the Room Using Current, Engaging Mentor Texts, by Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell.

I also knew that I wanted to engage my students in a way that would motivate them to learn.  I didn’t want to come back to school after the break and fall into the same routine. . . read the story and answer the questions.  Another goal I had was to utilize the technology being stored in the back of my room.  I have access to a Chromebook cart, and I volunteered to keep it in my room to be shared among the other 6th grade language arts teachers.  The cart sits back there untouched.  The Chromebooks are locked up like inmates in a high security prison.  Someone needed to break them out.  I resolve to incorporate them into my lesson at least 2-3 times a week.


We have only been in school for 3 days, but I feel energized and excited about teaching.  Already I have found myself making statements like, “We are going to give this a try and see how it works.”  I am trying to encourage a growth mindset in my students, so I feel it’s important for them to hear me say those words and to let them know when something didn’t work.  (Click here to read a past post of mine for more information about growth mindset.)  Sometimes I announce, “Growth mindset moment!”  I also tell them that I have a plan for next time.  Several times I feel like I have failed miserably and I think to myself, “Well, that didn’t work.”  However, that’s the beauty of teaching 5 periods.  By the time my last period rolls around, I have been reflecting, refining, and tweaking the lesson.

In the past, I would have been too afraid to try anything new if I didn’t know the outcome.  I remember having a conversation with my friend, Linda, a few years ago.  She is the epitome of a person who embraces a growth mindset.  I mentioned my fear of failure to her.  She said she was not afraid of failing and saw it as a learning opportunity.  I looked at her and wondered how she could live that way?  Today, I feel a lot like Linda when something doesn’t turn out as I planned.  I ask myself, “What can I learn from all of this?”

This afternoon at lunch, a fellow teacher commented, “This week is going by so slowly.”  For me it’s just the opposite.  This first week back from the break seems to be flying by.  Maybe it’s because I am excited about what I am teaching.  Maybe it’s because I made a commitment to use those darn Chromebooks more often.  Maybe it’s because of all my growth mindset moments.  Whatever it is.  I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow.  🙂


Summer Learning

My brain is about to explode!  I know it is summer vacation, but I have used the first few weeks of vacation for my own personal learning.  I started out reading two amazing books.  The first one is by Carol Dweck, entitled Mindset The New Psychology of Success.

The first time I had heard about this idea of mindset was during an SDAWP writing conference.  One of the presenters talked about fixed mindset versus growth mindset.  I won’t go into too much detail, but this quote is taken directly from the Mindset website.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

Reading this book had a profound impact in the way I view things.  As a teacher, I want to make sure that I encourage the growth mindset in my classroom.  As a parent, I want my daughters to understand the importance of a growth mindset in their learning.

When I finished this book, I read the book Drive, by Daniel Pink.

Wow!  This book also made me more aware of the ways we use extrinsic rewards to motivate.  Here is a youtube video that outlines his findings.  However, I would highly recommend you still read his book.

Again, reading Pink’s book made me think about the implications of student engagement and motivation.  How can I as a teacher make sure that students are involved in their learning?  As I read the book it reminded me about all the work I did last year with my Genius Hour time.  That whole experience lit a fire within me.  How amazing would it be if I could create that spark in all subjects, not just Genius Hour time?  What impact would that kind of learning environment have on students?  It’s a lot to think about and implementing this inquiry-based learning would be hard work.  But man, it would be so worth it in the end.  Learning can be fun.

I also signed up for a massive open on-line collaboration (MOOC) through Stanford University.  This MOOC was about how students learn math.  It is not a free course, but anyone can sign up to take it.  Here is the link to the site.  I thought this course would give me some insight on how to teach math in more meaningful ways.  I was not disappointed.  Although I am not going to be teaching in my own classroom next year, I can still use the ideas I learned in my math coach position.

Finally, I know I have mentioned before that I am going back to school to get my administrative credential.  I just completed a course in school improvement leadership.  In this class we talked about change theory.  We discussed the benefits of Professional Learning Communities and formative assessments.  We learned how to create effective school growth plans.  I just finished the final project and wrote a culminating reflective essay about my learning in this course.  It feels good knowing that is one less thing for me to complete.

Did I mention that I feel like my brain is about to explode??  The beautiful part is that all my learning is connected.  The principles I learned in each activity overlap with one another.  I think I need to take a break from all this learning and read something light.  However, I ran into a former colleague of mine, and she was so excited to talk to me about a book she was reading.  It’s funny because I had just ordered the same book and it arrived the other day.  It’s next on my list of school books to read.  The book is called The Writing Thief, by Ruth Culham.

I can’t wait to cram more knowledge into my already packed brain.  🙂

SDAWP Fall Conference 2013

This morning I spent a wonderful morning at University of California San Diego (UCSD) attending the San Diego Area Writing Project’s (SDAWP) Fall Conference.  I was able to attend 2 amazing workshops, but the best part about the morning was going through it with my friends.  Four of my colleagues from work were able to attend this morning’s conference as well.  I am so fortunate to have people at work that I can share ideas with.  We can talk about how we are using the new information we learned with each other.  It’s nice to have others around you who “get” it.

The other thing that I enjoyed from this morning (besides the workshops) was seeing my SDAWP friends from the Summer Institute.  I was able to reconnect with friends I made and ask them how their school year was going so far.  It was like a reunion and there were many hugs given during the continental breakfast before the workshop began.  In a few months we will be getting together again to plan the SDAWP Spring Conference.  I am sure it will be a lot of hard work, but I know we will also have fun because we get to work with each other once again.

As far as the workshops went, I attended a workshop lead by Aja Booker, teacher from San Diego Global Vision Academies Middle School.  Her workshop was called Writing Strategies to Support Complex Text.  Wow.  I thoroughly enjoyed her presentation.  Aja gave us strategies we could use in our classrooms tomorrow.  The strategies she shared will help students gain a deeper understanding of challenging and difficult text.  Even though the presentation was geared towards 3rd-8th grade, I believe I can adapt what she shared to meet my needs in 2nd grade.

I also attended a workshop given by fellow blogger, Barb Montfort (Wear the Cape).  Yes, I finally got to meet her in person!  I have been following her blog, so it was nice to talk to her in the flesh.  Her workshop was entitled Embracing Uncertainty:  Exploring Digital Tools for Digital Writing Purposes.  As educators we would not wait to teach literacy.  Therefore, we should not wait to teach digital literacy either.  I learned something about mindset from Barb.  There are two kinds of mindsets-fixed and growth.  When you are of a fixed mindset, you avoid challenges and give up easily when faced with a problem.  You find reasons why something cannot be accomplished and you ignore useful negative feedback.  On the other hand, people with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persevere, look for people who can support them, and listen harder.  I realize I want to be of a growth mindset.  Barb encouraged everyone to embrace technology, especially when it comes to digital writing.  I, myself, would have never considered getting a Twitter account or even starting a blog.  But, here I am.  Thanks to SDAWP Summer Institute.  Here is a picture of my friend embracing Twitter.


If you are still wondering if you should get a Twitter account, here is an informative article written by Kim Douillard, director of SDAWP, entitled Why Not Try Twitter?

It was an eventful morning.  It reminds me of what I need to do next in my classroom with writing.  Once again, I am energized.  I cannot wait for the Spring Conference!