Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Big Picture

Stuff comes to me just when I need it. Information comes at the most opportune times.


I am open to the stuff and information that comes my way.

Either way, I'll take it!!

School has been difficult the past three weeks. I have been challenged professionally in a way that has rocked me to my core. I have not slept. I worry. I cry.

In a moment of severe self-doubt my principal said to me (some version of this), "You are not used to not figuring it out, it is difficult for you to have to try many things, you will get this, you are already doing this."

She ''gets" me. I am used to things going my way. Things are good. I am successful. I feel good. If things are tough for an extended time I take it personally. Hard.

Last night, in a different training, totally unrelated (yet related) a wise man said, "Understanding helps us to not take it personally, it is larger than me."

That comment stopped me cold.

The stuff that has been difficult IS larger than me. I do not have to carry it in my backpack. 

My next hope is that I can be caring and compassionate, and work at the stuff, and see the big picture.

Wish me well!
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Struggle

How do I challenge the kids and create a culture that values growth and struggle and not just value the correct answer quickly?

This video is quick and full of ideas.

I am excited to use some new Feedback Stems this week to start valuing growth, not perfection.

--Look at how much progress you've made on... (be specific!)
--I noticed how... (be specific!)
--I admire how hard you have worked on... (be specific!)

Starting with these three, then I will add some more!

Also, we NEED to make a class matra...

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Important Ideas

I love learning. And applying the learning to my life and my classroom. 

That being said, I wasn't too excited to see an assignment pop up for my online class to watch a 47 minute long video. I didn't even get my notebook out for notes. 

That changed at 4 minutes in! I was scrambling for my notebook and was quick to pause and write my thoughts and ideas from the video. And 2 hours later I have finished the video (and my wings and pizza--Super Bowl, you know!).

Mostly I am thinking about how to apply this knowledge in my classroom and with my own sons.

Some thoughts:

1. Teach the love of learning, the thrill of improvement (like that one science class in college where I got a D on my first big test and worked my way into an A for the final grade--that's improvement), and to love the challenges

2. Be aware the skills and talents are malleable--time and effort may be needed

3. Look at errors, analyze them, learn from them

4. "What is my greatest failure, and how has it changed me?"

5. The power of Yet (I heard this from Ginger years ago, and now it makes even more sense, thanks Ginger!)

6. Developing a Growth Mindset is a life-long journey, monitor triggers that put me in a fixed mindset, learn from challenges (this is particularly important as I take the big classes)

7. Instead of telling my students "how smart they are," focus on effort, improvement, perseverance, and strategies used

And the ending, which is the most scary for me: Environment is totally a HUGE factor in whether a student develops more of a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. I set the stage.

So, here is my challenge for me: accept the kids, value who they are, teach rigorously (yes, even in kindergarten), understand how trauma influences learning (yes, more to learn), and be willing to share my learning journey with them.

Remember to send my your thoughts and resources for teaching kinders about Growth Mindset! 

Thanks in advance!

Just in case you want to see the whole video...

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Professional Journey

I'm taking the plunge. Growing my knowledge and not being afraid.

For years (maybe even since I completed my undergrad) I have avoided the thought of a Masters Degree. Well, not avoided, I have thought about it a lot. But have deemed myself unable to do the work. However, recently several interactions have propelled me into this journey, and I will officially start course work in the summer for a Masters Degree. 

I could have waited to write about it until then, but a portion of the degree is taking "workshops" that directly relate to classrooms right now, with skills and strategies and everything that I love. And I am taking 3 workshops this spring.

The first one is one week in. And I LOVE it.

We are using the book The Growth Mindset Coach, by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley. 

I can now see that by saying I could not do this Masters work was a fixed mindset and I am SOOOOOO glad to have gotten past that and decided that I could be brave and do this. If all students can learn (and I do believe this with all of my heart), then, I too, can learn and do this.

Our current reading is chapters 1 and 2 and these are my responses to do I have a fixed or growth mindset, and what is the difference between the two:

I feel like I have been working on my growth mindset for decades (even before I knew the term). When I am in a good place I find that I flip most things to be positive, and that has helped me a lot. In the quiz I did not mark any "fixed" statements (but see that they could creep into my mind on a bad day), and I marked 3 "growth" statements. In the educational setting, I can see that I do like to get out of my comfort zone and accept new challenges (so I could have marked those), but in my personal life that is not as prevalent. 

As I reflect on my circle of teacher friends, I see that many (all) have a growth mindset and we absolutely love to share and inspire and build each other up. I used to call it teacher magic. Now I know that it is living and growing our minds.

The difference between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset is both simple and complex. It is simple, because fixed is doing the same thing, and growth is being willing to learn and grow and do things in a different way. A Growth Mindset reminds me of thinking outside the box. The difference is also complex because of a subtle difference. In a fixed mindset, a person wants to win (I like to win or be the best), but in a growth mindset a person can win, but not to the exclusion of others. I LOVE it when I can work with my fellow teachers on skills and strategies and then all of the students benefit, no matter who their teacher is. I find that I would rather talk and write about Growth Mindsets, it is where I feel relaxed and good about me.

I am hoping that my bloggy friends will point me in the direction for resources and lessons for teaching the little 5 an 6 year olds in my classroom about growth mindset. It is a process and I am eager to learn with my classmates, bloggy friends and my students.
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Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Pep Talk to Myself in Early January 2017

8:45 am: I can do this, breathe, focus on what I want.

9:15 am: Golly, when is lunch? Ok, smile, love, do what is right.

10:30 am: Ack, the lesson went quicker than I thought, now what? Pull out that sticker story paper, teach it, smile.

10:50 am: Well done, the stories are great

11:20 am: Already 5 minutes into lunch? It is going so fast!!

11:50 am: We need to count, but they need to move. Jack Hartman!

12:30 pm: The outside temp is 10 degrees F. Another inside recess, breathe, focus on sharing and kind words

1:15 pm: YES! Today a kiddo blended a cvc word without my help!

1:45 pm: So much to do.

2:35 pm: Almost there--keep smiling, use kind words

3:00 pm: Use kind words, smile

5:00 pm (At home reflecting on the day): it was a great day, maybe the parents will bring the kids back for an evening session, I have so many ideas...

Being a kindergarten teacher reminds me a lot of the time I was a parent of young children. My sister and I said this to each other a lot:

The days drag on, but the years are flying by.

All day long with my kinders I find myself thinking--how much longer til the aide/para/parent volunteer comes in? I just want to use the restroom. Please, someone bring me a hot drink. This lesson is not going where I expected. (The days drag on. I feel isolated in my classroom.)

And then the kinders go home. 

And I miss them. I think of what I want to do the same the next day, or different the next day. How I want to do an interaction over, better, with more love. Smile more. Sing more. Teach with more purpose. 

And I see that the year is flying by. 

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Can Teaching Be Like Surgery?

One of my favorite shows is Grey's Anatomy. I don't really like watching the surgeries, but having the medical knowledge really helps me talk with my sister, the BSN! JK, she laughs at me when I try to talk medical and I call her all the time with questions about my family and our health. She is kind and answers all my questions patiently. I think she is the best nurse ever!

Anyway, this week on the show I was struck with the way they train residents. I usually watch the show for entertainment, but this week I found myself making connections to teaching student teachers, and even students.

Let me explain:

What if, instead of modeling how to teach (multiple times) the phonics lesson (that gets a little boring--and I have noticed the young teachers falling asleep), 

1. I model it once, 2. talk my student teacher through it once as she teaches it, and 3. then the student teacher teaches (talks through as another teaches) a student (or other student teacher). All the while I am nearby, ready to assist if someone snips an artery (or gives misinformation).

I'm pretty sure the level of proficiency will increase very quickly.

It's the medical model: See one, Do one, Teach one.

Exciting, huh???

I do not have a student teacher, but I did have a college student for a mini practicum for a couple of hours a week earlier this year. She is finished now, and I wish I could do it over. Sure, she learned, but did I help her get to a level of proficiency that would be most helpful to her in her teaching career? Probably not. And she could have had more fun if I had let her do more than SO MUCH OBSERVING and a tiny bit of teaching.

In my defense, I LOVE teaching. But, if I use the above model, I could continue to teach and shape and model the college student to do things "my way." 

Ok, I do not have a college student, and none on the horizon, so I will try this out with some of my Kindergarten students! I'll bet even more excitement in our class and just perhaps the level of proficiency will go up exponentially!

Good news! I just realized that I do this in one tiny part of our day! Our MVP (student leader of the day) leads the class in our alphabet chart (say the character, the sound and action, and the letter name).

So thankful for a weekend to work this plan out even more...
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Mathematical Practices--What??

I know there are some. I've read them several times. They are in my math teacher manual. I have them in a flip chart. But do I really understand what they mean?

Nope, not really. Not until yesterday.

Chris Shore from The Math Projects Journal came to my state and gave the keynote at a math conference I went to. Here are some highlights of his talk...

1. Teachers have to have a Growth Mindset. I must believe that kids can do it and that I can get them there. Is this a moment when I keep saying it until I believe it? I've believed that kids can do it, but I have a tough time thinking that I can get them there. Better work on that.

Here's my new mantra: Kids are that SMART and I am that GOOD. (He made us say it out loud several times.)

2. Million dollar teachers do these three things:
--have a no-options engagement policy in class (yay, I do this)
--do boot camp numeracy (what prerequisite skills must I teach today-or review-so that today's lesson can be fully learned), fundamentals are KEY
--H.O.T.S (always a struggle, but now I have ideas), each day as I think about the content, also think about the math practice-post those along with the standards

This is where it got good. He broke down those mathematical practices so that I could finally understand what they meant. (Can't teach it if I don't understand it.) He did this in kid-friendly terms. And gave us anchor charts to reference and post. If you want to see the charts look HERE.

He ended the talk by reminding us (the teachers in the room) that we matter the most in student achievement. 

And at the top of the list are relationships. And a growth mindset. And flexible thinking. And knowledge of our content.

So glad that I live in a world (my district) that values continued learning opportunities and that I make the time to go to them.
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