The Growth Mindset and Adam Levine

25 Feb

Disclaimer: I’m a reality tv junkie…

One thing you might not know about me is that I love the show, “The Voice.” I love singing (even though I suffer from the fixed mindset about my singing abilities…) but I also really enjoy hearing the stories of the people who audition for the show. I’m a sucker for the underdog and I think that the producers do an excellent job of pulling at your heart strings when they introduce each contestant.

The last performer of tonight was Deanna Johnson, an 18 year old girl who had auditioned for the show previously but failed to get a chair to turn. In tonight’s episode, it profiled how after the first rejection, she stopped singing for a couple of months but then regrouped and this time had all four judges turn their chairs for her.

The redemption was great, but what Adam Levine said to her really made an impression on me. I’ve recently read Carol Dweck’s “mindset” and am currently on a learning cycle in our school about fostering the growth mindset in our students. The first thing he praised about her wasn’t that she has an amazing voice (which she does) but rather that she went from not turning any chairs to getting all four to turn and the work ethic and determination (I’m paraphrasing) that she possesses in order to make that happen. He then went on to say that there were a few things he noticed that she could work on, but he wanted to be the one to help her grow. She ended up choosing him to be her coach and as he was walking to welcome her to his team, he talked about how “the good ones want to hear feedback in order to grow” (again paraphrasing). His assessment of her was absolutely bang on as this young 18 year old girl embodies the growth mindset for singing.

By the same token, Deanna really impressed me as in her interview after, she said the reason she chose him was that she “wants someone to be honest with her.” She wants to get better. She thinks she has potential and is looking for him to help her.

It yet again drives home my thinking that we can learn anything from anyone. She is following her passion and embracing this mindset (whether she’s aware of it or not) in order to grow as a singer and she’s only 18!

I’m inspired.

Growth Mindset

13 Feb

Over the Christmas break I read mindset by Carol Dweck and thoroughly enjoyed it. Her discussion of the different mindsets made me really reflect on myself as a learner and what I do in the classroom.

As we are just two weeks into the second semester, it’s really fascinating to see how the fixed mindset is something that many of my students seem to have. I feel like there is a fear of failure and an expectation that they need to be perfect and I’m throwing a curveball by asking them not be afraid to make a mistake.

Earlier in the week I was really frustrating to some students as I let them make their own decisions on a topic for their first blog post. I’m using their first post as a writing diagnostic and it took a while to get some students to buy into the idea that writing about what you’re interested in (as opposed to a topic from the teacher) is acceptable in class.

From this some good learning for me has occurred:
– I’m really going to have focus on using the essential learnings to explain our tasks
– that I have some work to do around the idea of mindsets
– that I need to build a lot of trust and have strong rapport with each and every student
– and that I need to keep reiterating that we have to practice skills before I can assess their abilities
– and that English is a skills based curriculum and it’s skill development that is key

Learning from Grade Ones

8 Feb

The first week of the semester is in the books and I think it was a success for my students. I have three groups of grade tens (two academic and an applied) and from first impressions, they are lovely.

My two academic classes are a part of a board initiative here in WRDSB called the English Digital Learning Project and I am so excited that we will have this amazing opportunity this semester! I love the focus on thinking outside the box as well as student voice and student choice. I’m really looking forward to seeing we can cultivate these characteristics across multiple schools in the board.

We are also making a concerted effort to teach collaboration skills, but instead of making students copy down a note, Amy Cruickshank from Southwood had the brilliant plan to have the students do the Marshmallow Challenge and reflect on it. My students loved it!! They had a blast working together and enjoyed the Ted Talk following our debrief.

What was really fascinating though was our discussion about how kindergartens tend to do better at this challenge than most other people. They talked about how kindergartens aren’t afraid to make a mistake and are willing to keep trying if they do. They don’t see it as a failure or that they aren’t smart, it just didn’t work. They also commented that as they get older, it’s the teacher giving them the solutions whereas in kindergarten, the students are learning for themselves. I was blown away by these reflections as they are so deep and thoughtful. It also makes me excited to think about that if they are here already, where can we be in June..

At the end of the day I checked Twitter and saw that @avivaloca’s class was also making structures and from a conversation that night, we had my grade 10 class interview three of her grade ones and it was amazing! I have to give a shout out to my student interviewer who is amazing with kids, but also to Aviva’s students as we really enjoyed engaging with them. I loved hearing their insights into the building and team work involved in the creative process. It’s also obvious that the growth mindset is at play in Aviva’s room as her students were talking about how they just kept trying new things and that they were having fun at the same time.

So at the end of two pretty exciting days, here are my take aways, I have some students who are already wanting to focus on learning not just grades, I also have some students who see the value in collaborating and thinking outside the box, and that we have a lot to learn from kindergartens and grade ones. They look for the joy in learning and that is something I hope my students and I can foster together this semester.

Cognitive Dissonance at Semester End

8 Feb

First semester has come to an end and I’m reflecting on the last few months. Overall, I am quite pleased. My students were amazing! We had great discussions about life and learning, and they created some absolutely wonderful products for me.

Something else that I really appreciated was that right away, my students realized that marks are not what is important in education. For many, the main focus was on learning and loving learning. It was so impressive to hear their reflections on their growth and I really feel blessed that many of them focussed on that instead of grades.

But what’s nagging at me is that at the end of the day, the end result of my class is a number and I have no choice but to give them a grade. It doesn’t focus on the personality of the student or the growth he or she demonstrated, it’s a number on a page and I can’t help but feel a bit let down and almost hypocritical. I spent the whole semester preaching about the value in learning and the importance of loving to learn, but the last piece of feedback from me will be a number on the report card (along with my comments of course.)

It just doesn’t sit well…

#oneword #initiative

8 Jan

@jacbalen has started a really amazing idea of sharing the idea of choosing “one word” to represent 2015 for you as a learner. There are some fascinating word choices out there and you can read her post that contains links to others’ ideas here. I’ve been reflecting on this idea and I’m struggling to narrow it down to just one word but I think I have it now.

2014 was an awesome year for me as I returned to work after maternity leave and have spent so much time learning and trying new strategies in my classroom. It was also a year of reflection. I spend a lot of my time learning and I’m really attempting to focus on making my classroom a place that is relevant to the lives of students, problem and project based, that promotes reflection and deep thinking within my students, but above else focuses on learning not grades. And yet, one thing I’m struggling with is that most of my students see this style of learning as engaging and powerful, but I think they are still skeptical as it’s not what they are used to and they are unsure if what they learned will translate to their other classes next year and at post secondary.

So with this reflection my word for 2015 is #initiative. The idea that I will look for and act on new ideas and opportunities for learning, demonstrate the capacity for innovation and a willingness to take risks, demonstrate a curiosity and interest in learning, approach new tasks with a positive attitude, and recognize and advocate appropriately for the rights of self and others. These ideas, coincidentally, are the success criteria for initiative under learning skills and work habits here in WRDSB. If I’m expecting this of my students, then I need to be embodying this in the classroom as one of my goals for 2015 is to show my students how I am still a learner and to model my journey for them.

Reflections on 2014 and Goals for 2015

29 Dec

2014 was a year full of ups and downs for me and through it all, I’ve learned the following:

1. Lesson planning is a creative outlet for me. I love to plan and find it satisfying on both a personal and professional level.
2. I have come to depend on some key individuals who support yet push my thinking.
3. I am still learning how to effectively deal with conflict. This is something I have struggled with my whole life and have to take each situation on an individual basis.
4. My body and mind need to stay active in pursuits such as dance or other sports.
5. I really love to learn and to help others learn too. Before this year, learning for me was a means to an end and this year I’ve really started to embrace that learning is a journey which should never end because life is way too interesting not to be explored.
6. That I need to stay true to myself. I have spent a lot of my life worrying about what others think, and although I try to keep that in mind, I’m really trying to focus on what I think and feel instead of letting others determine that for me.
7. That I need to surround myself with passionate people. I feel energized when I am with people who love life and are passionate about what they do and are not satisfied with the status quo.

Goals for 2015
1. More quality time for my family and friends.
2. Encouraging my girls to engage in the growth mindset (many people tell them they are “smart” but I want them to think of themselves in so many other ways.)
3. To stay organized at home and school -> my anxiety level rises when I feel things are spiralling out of control
4. To try to worry less -> this will be hard for me keep…
5. To read a book a month -> I just finished Mindset and am now reading Curiosity
6. To keep being active.
7. To find opportunities that push me outside my comfort zone.
8. To find more ways to give back to those around me. I’ve agreed to help out with our school’s badminton team a couple of times a week as one method of giving back.
9. To ask more questions.
10. To keep taking pictures as it is a creative outlet that I love.

Above all, to keep learning and being curious, and to instil this value in my children as well my students.

Growth Mindset

15 Dec

Almost daily I’m seeing references to the “Growth Mindset” on Twitter and am now hearing about it in professional development sessions and so I’ve decided to read Carol Dweck’s Mindset. So far, it’s fascinating and has caused a lot of self reflection for me. In many ways, I feel that I have a growth mindset and I hope that it comes across in the classroom, but I know that for most of my teenage years, I had the fixed mindset. I was the mark hungry student who didn’t really care about feedback as my whole focus was getting into university to become a teacher.

To be honest, I don’t think I valued the idea of learning and in fact, I don’t think I understood what it meant to be a learner. I think I grew up with always contemplating the future and didn’t really process that what was more important, was the journey I was on, not the destination. I often try to put myself back into the role of the student and imagine myself in my own classroom. If I had the mindset I have now, I would love my class, but if I was my teenage self in my classroom, I would find it frustrating. Frustrating that there is so much freedom, frustrating in that I wouldn’t receive marks, and frustrating because I didn’t see the value in being a learner. Somewhere along the line, the love of learning disappeared for me.

With considering my current mindset and former one, I have learned. I have learned that I need to be fostering the growth mindset. The thinking that we can always be improving, that learning doesn’t end with a grade, that we have to try, that we have to fail, that challenges help us learn and grow, and that anyone can be a teacher – no matter their age or education level.

My learning must continue – I owe it to my students and their future success.


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