Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mindset Chapter 4: The Mindset Of A Champion 
I am not a natural born athlete. It would describe my sister, brother, son, niece and nephew..but somehow, not me.  Did that stop me from trying? No. I enjoy the feeling of standing in the backfield defense challenging the offence to come and kick a  soccer ball my way and then kicking it hard back to our team or at least out of the way . I fell in love with broom ball my freshman year of college and even didn't mind putting on 39032 layers of clothing including the hat, scarf, mittens and boots as we battled it out during J-Term in the late evenings on the ice rinks. I roller skate but I am not a derby girl. I ice skate, but I am not graceful. Is sledding a sport if it is not a bobsled team? I am good at that and I am good and natural at so many other things. 

So, as you can see, this is can't be natural born athlete wisdom I will be dispelling here. Instead it comes from a mindset of not giving up as well as a mindset that sometimes, a girl just wants to have fun and fun isn't always about winning. 
A great question  to ponder over is whether good athletes are born or, are they made? I think it is a bit of both. This is my son's last year of basketball. He is graduating. He started out on the JV squad for two years. His junior year, he started JV and played Varsity. This year it is just starting Varsity.  He doesn't often complain about waking up and leaving  by 5:30 AM for four months in a row driven by his mother and his sister. He doesn't complain at all because he loves it. He runs hard doing drills, he trains to do well for games. It is his natural passion. He is a good example of a natural born athlete.  If you look at my son, Mr. 17, you will see amazing agility and strength and speed. You see nothing of that when it comes to me. I have to work for it. 

If we push this question are good students born or made, you will see Mr. 17 have to work very hard at school, where as for me, school / learning was my "thing." In both cases, whether I needed an open mindset to play sports  and work hard, or Mr. 17 needs an open mindset for working hard at school, we must both push ourselves to the limit. Just past the pain of it all is the place where we move past the ordinary into the extraordinary.
If you work hard enough, if you are patient with yourself and with others, you will find the place of becoming. That is called character building.  Character building in sports, school or in life is more valuable and such a great teacher! Character is what a person is really like. You take their values, their personality as well as their integrity and as life comes and goes with ebbs and flows, character is made. It is who they are on field or off the field and even in the field of life. Those who are working on cultivating a growth mindset believe that character building is a result of time and deliberate practice. Character building involves resiliency and seeing problems not as a challenge, but as a great opportunity to learn. When you are shaping the character of your children or a student or looking at  yourself, you want to say don't give up! Character building is just like learning and learning is messy. It is not for those who are protecting their self image. It is about failing forward, falling hard, and coming up again. 

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Carol Dweck hosted by Education World.

EW: What can teachers do to help develop mastery-oriented students -- students who will face a challenge rather than be overwhelmed by it?

Dweck: Students who are mastery-oriented think about learning, not about proving how smart they are. When they experience a setback, they focus on effort and strategies instead of worrying that they are incompetent.

This leads directly to what teachers can do to help students become more master-oriented: Teachers should focus on students' efforts and not on their abilities. When students succeed, teachers should praise their efforts or their strategies, not their intelligence. (Contrary to popular opinion, praising intelligence backfires by making students overly concerned with how smart they are and overly vulnerable to failure.)
When students fail, teachers should also give feedback about effort or strategies -- what the student did wrong and what he or she could do now. We have shown that this is a key ingredient in creating mastery-oriented students.

In other words, teachers should help students value effort. Too many students think effort is only for the inept. Yet sustained effort over time is the key to outstanding achievement.

In a related vein, teachers should teach students to relish a challenge. Rather than praising students for doing well on easy tasks, they should convey that doing easy tasks is a waste of time. They should transmit the joy of confronting a challenge and of struggling to find strategies that work.

Finally, teachers can help students focus on and value learning. Too many students are hung up on grades and on proving their worth through grades. Grades are important, but learning is more important. (Emphais is mine, KAHH)  (

Dweck writes, "Character grows out of mindset." Even if you are a natural born athlete like my son, it is still important to cultivate the character. Look at Terrell Owens. He is without a team, without money, without the earthly things that he thought mattered. He was a natural born athlete who let the glitter and the fame go to his head. What is he left with? Nothing, except now, to go back, undo it all and start again. Cultivate the character. 

There are three findings that Dweck points out when it comes to character and mindset.  
  1. Those with growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving.
  2. They found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake up call. 
  3. Took charge of the processes that bring success and that sustain it.” 
This will work for my son, it will work for Terrell Owens, it will work for me and it will work for you. Beyond that, it will work for every student in the classroom. 

I will close with this quote from Dweck, "Great athletes have a team--coaches, trainers, caddies, managers, mentors." They do. That is absolutely true. I call that accountability partners. People who speak into your life and push you to grow to your fullest potential and who speak into your life the truth, not just what you want to hear.  We all need them in sports, in marriages, in friendships, at work and in every aspect of life. 

Here are some questions to ponder:

  1. How would you define character?
  2. Do you have the mindset of a champion? 
  3. How can you work on improving your game, your marriage, your family, your health and your profession? 
  4. Do you do your best when things are going for you or against you? 
  5. How can you use a growth mindset to raise your game and your game of life when it counts most?
  6. Does your joy in sports (life) come from playing (or doing) your hardest or from winning? 
  7. Do you take losses really hard? Why? 
  8. What do losses say about you, your sports ability, or your image of yourself?
  9. What can you do this week to encourage your students and those you come in contact with to have a growth mindset? 

This post was created for my book study group #mindset13 on Twitter. I was responsible for chapter four. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Here are the excellent adventure seekers.

 Over the past three days at the School For All Seasons, we have enjoyed a time set aside for exploratories. There was one for quilting, one for volcanoes and another that was reader's theater. There was also an exploratory on poetry. Mine was about the Mayans. I had started off wanting to do something about Spanish, was led to this instead.

From a recent post, you will see that I was kind of excited for this day to come! I had been planning it out carefully. (Click here for my earlier post.)

Your Adventure Awaits....
I had made these travel invitations below and sent them out to all the participants. I believe we had a total of 39 adventure seekers! I paired them up with a buddy (one who was older, with one who was younger)  so that they had a travel companion and I also placed them in a tribe that was composed of students from 1st-5th grade. There ended up to be four in each tribe which I named after Mayan cities except for two groups which had five.

I also prepared for them these passports. Inside the passports, were the different maker and learning stations for them to visit and to make notations about what they learned at the center.

Our centers included:

Adventure seekers need passports. 
Myths, Fables & Mayan World Tree

Tortilla Making & Maize Agriculture

Chocolate & the Cacao Tree

Ancient Basketball

Writing Our Names In Glyphs

Writing Numbers The Mayan Way

Mayan Calendar Converter

Ancient Ruins

Non-fiction Literature

Art For The Mural

I had several goals that I set for myself regarding this exploratory.

The first was to step out of the way of the kids learning on the days of the exploratory, but to provide for them excellent resources for them to study from on their own.  To do this, I laminated information and created QR codes for sites on the web I wanted them to check out.

My second goal was to to my best to be as paperless as possible. I decided that designing an interactive passport gave them freedom to recall whatever information they wanted to remember and that was just fine. I had the QR codes originally laminated, but they didn't work so well, so I made paper copies. (Bummed because I didn't want paper laying around!) They had paper for designing their part of the mural and paper for making their protective belt that some Mayans wore when they played "basketball."

My third goal was to have this opportunity be as #maker as possible! Having maker space is really important. Classrooms I think, should be designed around maker space. There was a maker opportunity at each table. The kiddos had a GREAT time. One of the best parts about this learning opportunity is the engagement that it offers. Each maker and learning center was designed with them in mind! They were creating pyramids out of sugar cubes, making little tiny "clay" figures that would have been found at the ancient ruins. They made hot chocolate, tortillas, protective belts for basketball, wrote numbers, wrote their name using phonetic glyphs, and on and on it went.

It is important to reflect on your practice or your job, whatever the task may be. As you know I am a HUGE big believer in making the learning opportunities that students have to be suited for all of the 8 intelligences: word smart, logic smart, nature smart, music smart, body smart, picture smart, people smart, self smart. Sadly I am ashamed to say that I didn't think about that as my top priority going in to this, but gratefully, it took care of itself as I designed the stations .  What I need to do differently is to create a maker & learning center that has the music smart learners in mind. I also need to create a maker & learning center that has the nature smart learners in mind. I am grateful for the time I have between now and the next time this year when I get the opportunity to do this again. This filled the need for the people smart friends and the self smart friends because they got to work with others and yet, their learning was organic to they themselves as an individual.

I also learned that I need at least two more maker & learning centers so if I can come up with one for music and one for nature, I should be good. I also thought that maybe having larger "bricks" to build a pyramid might be fun. So, I am thinking of collecting empty tissue boxes...or something! We will see.

Finally, I must include my coworker more in on the next time we do this exploratory. She came in on this with about 9 days to go before we were to pull off our first exploratory.  I had everything planned, printed and ready to go! That is not great for co-teaching, when one does all the work, but then again, I didn't know I was doing it with someone else until I was all done creating it and I had been thinking about it since before school got out! So, next time, maybe she can create the nature and the music maker & learning stations or we can work on it together.

In conclusion, this was a blessing to me to see the students learn and laugh & to be constantly engaged. I can't wait to do this again!

Here is a video of our time. Excuse the Bollywood kind of theme...evidently iMovie doesn't have Mayan music!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Be Brave--October is Bullying Awareness Month

The BIG BIG BIG rule in first grade is to BE BRAVE! I wish I had come up with that idea myself, but I didn't. Thanks to Matt Gomez who is a rockstar Kinder teacher in Tx for the inspiration and giving words to what I have always believed. It is a pure, simple easy rule. Right???

Except for when it is not. October is a month set aside to raise awareness about bullies.  It is hard to BE BRAVE when bullies are involved. So, let's look closely at how you can BE BRAVE in this regard.

When you are being bullied you often feel ALONE or scared. Maybe you feel embarrassed that this is happening to you at all. Sometimes, your heart gets hurt really badly, so badly that a band aide can't even be found big enough to heal this hurt. Sometimes, your body might get hurt and the scars inside your heart match the scars others can see on the outside of your body.  Sometimes, bullies will come at you with really bad ideas that you feel like you have to cave in  just to get the bullies to stop bothering you. 

Bullying is a big deal. It will affect you in your life. I can promise this with utmost, and saddest assurance. I wish to goodness gracious that it wouldn't but it will. There is even more sad news. It happens to grown ups too in our work places. Even when you think you are really grown up, you may still have to BE BRAVE and fend off bullies.


Well, here is a little secret. Bullies have hurt hearts. Somewhere, somehow, their hearts got really hurt. So badly that the only way THEY think they can feel better is to hurt everybody else around them too. They might feel out of control in their life and this is one way that they are trying to get some type of control back. Or, maybe when they were really little...maybe even as young as you are in first grade, they learned some really bad behavior. Sometimes bullies just think that they can be really popular if they are really mean. 
If you take the time and friends, make the walk in someone else's shoes, you might see WHY they are the way they are. Is that okay? NO bullying is NEVER okay. Not in homes, not at school, not at work, not with friends, not in sports. Still it is good to try to figure out WHY they might be so mean.

So, Here you go! How to BE BRAVE even when it is really, really scary and very, very hard.

1) AVOID them. They are just attention seekers. Try to walk a different way. Try to sit somewhere else. You don't even need to look their way. 

2) Put on your bravest face ever! Sometimes, you need a don't mess with me attitude. This is so much easier when you like yourself. If you are already telling yourself things you don't like about yourself, this step might be a bit harder. So, practice liking yourself. Not out of pride, or because "I am so much more super-duper awesome than  you"...but because when you like yourself, like your life, like your are full of hopes, dreams and compassion for others, you will be OUTSTANDING! Feeling pretty good about yourself and your life will get you so much farther anyhow! 

3) Always have a fishing buddy. My fishing buddies are great. I have two co-workers at my job a that I can talk to and I know that I have their confidence and they have mine. I have a lot of friends that I "go fishing" with that help me out in other ways too.  Find a friend and vow to catch each other, to have each other's back. Looking out for #1 won't get you far. Look out for each other. Bullies HATE teams! :)

4) Tell mom and dad. Tell a teacher. Tell anyone until they LISTEN. 

And now comes the TRICKY part of BEING BRAVE.

5) Don't be a bully back. This is hard. You are really going to want to sometimes. But it is just to dangerous. It really isn't worth the risk.
6) This one is hard for me to BE BRAVE... don't show  your feelings. This is not the time to get angry, throw a temper tantrum..or even letting the bully know that they got to you. Save that for later. Keep your cool. It is okay to be angry. But being angry sometimes leads you down the wrong path when it is out of control. I know it is hard. Believe me. Here is the good news, when you have a fishing buddy, you will have someone who will listen to you -or a parent, or a teacher talk to them. 

So, that is why I am here. I am writing this to you my first grade friends to remind you that I care. That YOU really do MATTER. I might be tiny..but I am a fierce defender and I will stick up for you when you are being bullied. I just wanted you to know. 

Here is a beautiful book and song to end with. BE BRAVE!!! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Day At The Park, Multiple Intelligences, Revised Blooms Taxonomy

I had been waiting for this kind of field trip to come! The kind were you may get lost in the woods (but you won't). The kind that combines outdoor learning with my hopes and desires for all children which is to know that school is much more than a test. It is more than a should be all about "Where Learning Takes On New Meaning”. 

One of the eight kinds of smart is Nature Smart. I was happy for the students who fit this description because so often, their style of learning is not often met at school. Today was for all of us, the students and staff of the two year round schools in our district, but my heart celebrates  the students who were created to learn best like this! Those for whom this field trip filled up their  senses and their hearts. 

These students are  someone who friends can count on to be there for them. They write. They put on a plays at home & at school. They love recess. They wonder with our Wednesday Wonderwall time. They are great helpers in the classroom. They survived hardships to even be alive and they are a miracle. That is true genius.

My students have gone on a vacation come back alive with stories because I tell them to look beyond our country bumpkin water tower.  They even know how to tell a great story and bubble over with excitement to share. Data will tell me how they line up with other students, their RIT what they are good at (Reading or Math), what they are not... but it will not tell me  YOU MATTER." 

Below is a link to see which kind of "smart" you are:

If you are interested in creating more authentic learning opportunities and combining the Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Gardner, 1985) with the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy  (Anderson, Krathwohl 2000), here is a planning Matrix for you that I got here:

Finally one thing I did this year is I sent out a form to my parents in my classroom to fill out about their child. I want and desire to know the whole child, not the little tiny snap shot I see at school. Here is the form I used or you could use this one as well: I study this, I refer to this and it is like a path for me to help understand the children in my classroom.

This matters. It makes meaningful learning. It creates learning that sticks and in the end, when you try to adjust your teaching to ensure the best learning for all students, it tells them YOU MATTER! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Repost from a teacher: I Am A Teacher

I am a teacher. 

I went to college, got a four year degree. Was required to go back to college and get a Master's Degree. I applied for many positions and even worked as a substitute teacher. I endured state and national testing. I was finger printed and background checked.
I trained before, during, and after my training/ education. I continue to train because I am a lifelong learner. Since full time employment, I have sacrificed time, sleep, and Family. I have sacrificed my own money year after year to provide for my students.

I am a teacher.

I have learned, lasted, endured change, endured further change, and endured orders to embrace the change.
While you were sleeping, I have corrected papers and tests, researched and created, and endured harassing phone calls and emails with grace and professionalism. I teach the kids who live on your streets. I teach the kids that have been bailed out of jail. I teach the kids who have been kicked out of psychiatric centers because they were beyond help. I teach the kids whose home situations you could never imagine even in your worst nightmares. I teach ALL students no matter their socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, medical/ psychiatric condition, good or poor attitude, religion, family circumstances. When accused by the federal and state government for being part of a failing system, I endure name calling, shame, and criticism simply because I am a teacher. I am professionally evaluated on two days worth of test scores and not the amount of time and effort I put into my teaching.

And despite it all,
I AM a teacher and devoted to this noble calling

By: Ann MacAbee

Fixed Mindset VS Growth Mindset: Change how you think!

Mindset is important! It will change everything. YOU are not a have "epic fails" but that doesn't mean you a failure. You are not chained to your past, to your capabilities nor to labels. The key is to realize that you have the ability to grow by changing how you think.Failures...lead to great success!!! People with a growth mindset, set their sights on learning. It is important to make your feedback growth process related. Because you lose, does that make you a loser? No. It doesn't. 

1) Recognize that the growth mindset is supported by science.
2) Learn about to develop your abilities.
3) Listen to your fixed mindset voice..and when you hear it, add at the end...the word YET. I can't do it yet..but soon! 

Failure as a Tool - Vinod Khosla

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wonderwall Wednesday October 2, 2013

In our Wonderwall Wednesday today we talked about two great questions and what was lovely about them both is that you can kinda count both, at least reach a reasonable determination based on data collecting. For the first question which was: How many doors does our school have, the students realized that they themselves could count that. 

BUT...there were some issues. We are a school within a school. We are the year round school inside the traditional school. Do we count the doors from the other wing? We counted lockers...however, when we did that, the traditional students were not yet back. The students voted to only count the doors in the School For All Seasons. This lead us to another problem to solve. Do we count doors that lead to the outside..the metal doors and the glass doors? Again, a vote was taken and the answer was no. Finally almost ready to roll, we debated about if we should count the doors that lead to the library. No. The students decided not to count that...however, we would count the door that lead to the computer lab as it is in our hallway.

We took guesses and then we counted. We learned that the kinder rooms have two doors..(they get a bathroom) We counted doors that go to closets and mechanical rooms as well as classroom doors and the wood door that leads to the exit that opens up outside. Now, that we counted because on the other side of the wood door, is a metal door. That one we don't count. 

I helped the students figure out how far off they were from the answer we got from our data and then the students helped me put the names in order of who was the who was the farthest away. 

Our next wonder was not as easy. It was, I wonder how many people there are on Earth. That is a big number for first graders..but we are getting better at our big numbers. So...we talked. We took few minutes to think back about all the really big numbers we talked about. How far away space is, the size of all the planets...and so on. Then they were ready for some big numbers.   We are learning to put the comma in the right place..and say the number together. The big number. The really big number! 7.046 Billion is a lot of people. How do they count that? Well, one way is that a census is done. It is filled out by families. We write down how many people are in our homes and send it in. So if you look carefully, we took a census. 

It was a great day to wonder in Minnesota...and I can't believe we only have two more Wonderwall Wednesdays to go before our fall break!!!! Oh my!