Living with a Growth Mindset

I believe it is essential that we teach our students to live and learn within a growth mindset. But really, it’s essential for all of us.

This year, perhaps more than any other, I have heard teachers talk about feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and at times, defeated. For me, living with a growth mindset includes treating ourselves with gentleness and patience. We should not try something new and expect to be immediately successful. We should not expect ourselves to be experts in everything. We should not expect to have the same results this year as in other years with so many factors (beyond our control) influencing each day.

If you heard your students being hard on themselves, what would you say? Treat yourself with the same compassion.

For what it’s worth, I believe in you. You can do this… one day at a time!

Entering the Literate World

A few days ago, our five-year-old grandson requested a FaceTime call with us. This is unusual: typically when we call the family, he is the least talkative.

This time though, as soon as I saw his face on my phone, I could tell he was excited to talk. “Nonna… Nonna… today I wrote a chapter book!”

He showed it to me as best he could and then told me that his book is 49 pages and that he used every letter of the alphabet!

When I asked him to read it to me, he said, “I can’t read!”

Priceless. At once a writer and non-reader.

This is my favourite age within children’s development: on the verge of both reading and writing. The desire to enter the literate world is palpable. Before long, our grandson will enter the literate world. For now, he is a budding writer with a book soon to be added to our bookshelf. It is sure to be my new favourite!

Start, Stop, Continue

I recently finished presenting a three-part professional learning series. At the end, we took the time to reflect: “What will you start, stop, and continue doing in your classroom?”

Certainly, it is important to step out of our comfort zones and try something new. But in doing so, we must recognize what we can give up. We can’t do it all: there’s not enough time in the day.

When reflecting on your current practices, consider: ‘Why do I do what I do?’ Is it because it engages your students, because you recognize how it affects student learning, or simply because you’ve always done it that way?

Start, Stop, Continue is an excellent framework for reflection. As you go about your week with students, keep this idea back of mind… What is worth starting in your classroom? What can you stop because it’s not having the impact it once was? And what will you continue: what’s working?

How do you define text?

When our curriculum refers to text, it is often interpreted as print and only print. In its broader definition though, text includes oral media, visual media, and digital literacy too.

Stretch your own definition of text to include oral storytelling, spoken word poetry, songs, short films, photographs, paintings, video games, album covers…

A few favourite sites to get you started:

Before you share anything with students, be sure to read or view everything through to the end to ensure that it is appropriate for your class.

What can you do with these diverse texts? Consider the opportunities for:

  • making comparisons
  • exploring the creator/illustrator/artist’s purpose and craft
  • discussing elements of text: beginning, middle, end; character; emotion; theme; the role of music…
  • writing dialogue or description
  • examining the creation of mood and tone
  • reader response writing

The possibilities are endless!

Mr. Parrotta and Mr. Jensen

Inspired by the election, there was a recent radio call-in show discussing the experiences people had running for office. At any level. Made me think back to high school and an interaction that forever changed me.

One of my teachers, Mr. Parrotta, approached me about running for Senior Class President. He explained that my leadership qualities and organizational skills would make me a great fit for this position. I was surprised. More than surprised actually. I had never considered running for any position, let alone president. Besides, I didn’t consider myself a leader.

I decided to run and eventually I became Senior Class President. But it wasn’t that experience that changed me. It was Mr. Parrotta’s words. He helped me recognize certain qualities in myself and he instilled a confidence that I hadn’t felt before.

As teachers, we spend considerable time with our students. Our words, our interactions, and our belief in our students, might have more of an impact than we ever realize.

Mr. Jensen had the same effect on Clint as Mr. Parrotta had on me. Watch this:

Rediscover the Joy

Why did you become a teacher?

When I think back to my decision (too many years ago to count), it comes down to the students. Being surrounded by students each day is exhilarating. I love the honesty with which they live. I love witnessing their aha moments. I love their spontaneous exclamations of delight.

But let’s face it. The last few years have been tough. The pressures and pivots due to COVID and the expectations placed upon teachers quickly cause fatigue and can easily overwhelm us.

This year I challenge you to rediscover the joy of teaching. Close your door to the chaos and reignite your reason for choosing this profession in the first place.

Which moments in your classroom do you treasure the most? How will you ensure these moments outweigh the challenges?

“Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Spread Some Love – a repost…

I have never reposted a blog entry before. And yet, with the province declaring a State of Public Health Emergency yesterday, this post feels timely again…

Over the last few weeks, I have heard many health care professionals–doctors, nurses, paramedics, personal care workers, and others–share their frustration and exasperation with the current COVID situation. Rightly so. In the midst of this fourth wave, they are feeling demoralized and disheartened as they are stretched beyond their limits. All in a preventable situation.

We cannot ease their burdens, but we can let them know they are appreciated. This week, I’m going to write messages of thanks and send them to a handful of health care workers for all they do, day in and day out.

Will you join me? Will your students?

Perhaps the students in your class (or even better, your whole school) will write letters, draw pictures, or create cards of thanks.

Imagine the recipients, reading the messages and pausing for a moment to smile. Imagine the feelings of hope when they see recognition of their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Imagine the moment they notice the sincerity and care with which your students wrote their messages.

We can’t change their realities, but perhaps we can provide a much needed lift. I’d love to drown out the negative voices with our positive ones.

But I can’t do it alone…

If you are willing to participate, add your grade level, the number of students in your class, and perhaps where you plan to send your letters or cards. Let’s spread some love and appreciation! Are you in?

Stand Tall

Those of us who were teaching twenty years ago, remember the day with our students. It’s difficult to forget.

On September 11, 2001, I was teaching grade 6. By the time my students arrived at school, both twin towers had been hit. Many of my students came into class knowing something had happened. And yet others arrived completely unaware. There was a strange buzz in the air, one I’d never want replicated.

I threw out my lesson plans that morning. Instead we talked. I remember feeling vulnerable, unsure of what and how much to say to my students. I remember the difficult conversations and the challenging (and often unanswerable) questions. I remember the sombre tone of the day, knowing our world had changed, and not yet knowing the gravity of those changes.

On that day it was difficult to find much light. It was truly a day of darkness.

In the upcoming days and weeks, the world learned more about the events that transpired. The more we learned, the more questions we had. But also, small moments of light–stories of strength, compassion, and heroics–emerged.

As teachers, we have an incredible opportunity to journey with our students in difficult moments as well as celebratory ones. We don’t know what each day will bring, but we stand before our students nonetheless.

Resolute, determined, hopeful. Each and every day.

Spread Some Love

Over the last few weeks, I have heard many health care professionals–doctors, nurses, paramedics, personal care workers, and others–share their frustration and exasperation with the current COVID situation. Rightly so. In the midst of this fourth wave, they are feeling demoralized and disheartened as they are stretched beyond their limits. All in a preventable situation.

We cannot ease their burdens, but we can let them know they are appreciated. This week, I’m going to write messages of thanks and send them to a handful of health care workers for all they do, day in and day out.

Will you join me? Will your students?

Perhaps the students in your class (or even better, your whole school) will write letters, draw pictures, or create cards of thanks.

Imagine the recipients, reading the messages and pausing for a moment to smile. Imagine the feelings of hope when they see recognition of their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Imagine the moment they notice the sincerity and care with which your students wrote their messages.

We can’t change their realities, but perhaps we can provide a much needed lift. I’d love to drown out the negative voices with our positive ones.

But I can’t do it alone…

If you are willing to participate, add your grade level, the number of students in your class, and perhaps where you plan to send your letters or cards. Let’s spread some love and appreciation! Are you in?

Writing to Survive

As the school year approaches, I’m sure you’ve considered how you will incorporate writing into your classroom. We know there are many curricular objectives about the teaching of writing.

But this year in particular, keep in mind how writing can support our students’ mental health.

Anne Frank once said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” More recently, Suleika Jaouad who battled leukemia with a 35% chance of survival has said, “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that writing saved me.” Why not discuss these quotes with your students? Help them understand a side of writing they may not have considered: an emotional release, reflecting on life experiences, thinking on the page…

How will you facilitate this writing in your classroom? Journal writing, freewriting… a little of both. However you do it, be intentional. Dive into the conversation with students. Allow this function of writing to be visible in your classroom.

Those of you who know my story, know that when I was a young student, writing saved me, too. Don’t underestimate its power…