Category Archives: Motivation

The Magic of Mistakes

Class Dojo is creating a series of animated videos for young students to promote a Growth Mindset.  “The Magic of Mistakes” is the second video to be published, and I think it has a great message for your students.  While we don’t want our students to be afraid of making mistakes, we need to be careful about the way we emphasize the importance of mistakes.  Mistakes can be good – but only if you learn from them.  Mojo’s friend, Katie, helps to make that distinction in “The Magic of Mistakes.”

There is a short discussion guide that you can download for the video, which includes questions for parents and students to think about at home.  Class Dojo will be releasing a video for this series once a week for the next three weeks, so be sure to stay tuned!

For more Growth Mindset resources, check out this Pinterest Board, which includes videos that are appropriate for students of all ages (including adults!).

screen shot from Class Dojo's "Magic of Mistakes" video
screen shot from Class Dojo’s “Magic of Mistakes” video

If Money Didn’t Matter…

Powerball tickets can’t be printed fast enough right now.  Everyone has hopes of winning that big prize, of suddenly being in the enviable position of never having to worry about how to pay the bills again.

Many people like to dream about what they would do if they woke up one day to learn they have unlimited wealth.  How would their lives be different?

I feel like I am doing exactly what I have always wanted to do – maybe not with all of the freedom I imagined, but teaching has always been instinctive and fulfilling for me.  It surprises me when people say they never really knew how they wanted to spend their lives and kind of aimlessly went through the motions until they landed in a career.  But I find that is really the majority, and I am more fortunate than I ever would have guessed to be able to identify and live out my passion.

In this video from National Geographic, Alan Watts, a famous philosopher, strongly argues for doing what you love. It’s not necessarily a video I would show to elementary students, but I wish that all high school freshmen could see it.  And I wish that we modeled and supported this whole-heartedly in our educational system…

Alan Watts

Smart Girls Build

I have raved about Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls site several times on this blog.  The work this former Saturday Night Live and Parks and Rec actress/comedian is doing to inspire girls and give them positive role models is phenomenal.  Now the site offers a new video series that pairs girls with the creators of The Sims video game to show how the talents and passions that the girls have can be used in a video game to express themselves and inspire others.

The “Smart Girls Build” series currently has three episodes that showcase dance, music, and photography.  They are relatively short (about 5 minutes each), but give great insight into how The Sims developers pay close attention to detail to make the game include realistic interpretations of each of the girls.

We need more girls to pursue careers in technology, yes.  But, even more importantly, we need them to see that their passion to create is valued and has enormous potential in an infinite number of hobbies and careers.

image from Amy Poehler's "Smart Girls Build"
image from Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls Build”

I Hope this Change is Soon Made

In my GT class, each grade level meets with me once a week.  The 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders do a cooperative blog post for our class blog at the end of each their GT days. A couple of months ago, one of my students wrote this:

“GT today!” is what we yelped happily this morning. We have been doing genius hour and I would replace Social Studies with time to work on reports on whatever we want. It would be fun to finally have some freedom on the things we do in school instead of a teacher walking in and saying, “We’re going to learn about blah blah blah. Yes there’s only one right answer. GT kids. Bleh. Who came up with the idea of GT. I’m going to have a talk with that rat.” I love having freedom, but most teachers don’t understand that always having that ONE answer just keeps our brains cooped up. It doesn’t help us learn very much. If kids were alowed to enjoy learning they might do it more. our teachers would have a less stressful time trying to get us to listen and learn if we had some time to learn about what we want. It would still be learning and it would be more creative because we have to keep everyone intrested by coming up with different ways of presenting the research from everyone else. I hope this change is soon made.

I asked the student and her mom for permission to publish the student’s request on this blog, and they agreed.

I’ve thought a lot about how I wanted to present this young lady’s desire for more control over her own learning and assessment.  She is not the only student who has written about this in my class, and certainly not the only one to express this frustration with our education system.  I have a lot to say, but I am more interested in what you think.

I would like your comments on her suggestion, particularly if you are a classroom teacher.  Is it possible, even with the mandates of a required curriculum and high-stakes testing, even with classes of 22 or more students, and even within a non-flexible school day schedule, to grant this student’s request?  If not, what is one change you would recommend that would make it possible?  If you have done this, or seen it done, in a regular classroom, please comment on the secret ingredients to make this work.


Start 2016 with a Growth Mindset

Modeling and teaching my students about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset has resulted in huge shifts in thinking in my classroom over the past few years.  I have witnessed amazing changes in some of my students who often avoided risks because they were fearful of appearing unintelligent.  Those who have been on the same journey with me for the last three years now embrace challenges, learning from mistakes, and perseverance.

Teachers don’t often get to witness positive outcomes that result from their guidance, but it has been gratifying to see the effects of promoting a growth mindset in my classroom.  If you have not introduced this to your students, I strongly urge you to make a commitment to do it in 2016.

I’ve shared a lot of growth mindset resources on this blog, which you can find here.  Over the past couple of weeks I have run across some more:

  • Thanks to @shellterrell, I learned that Larry Ferlazzo shared this new RSA film that animates one of Carol Dweck’s fascinating speeches about the impact of having a growth mindset.  It is a good film to show adults and older students (I plan to show it to my 4th and 5th grade GT students).
  • This article speaks about “What Growth Mindset Can Teach Us About Our Brains,” and reminds us of some of the pitfalls some of us succumb to when we try to simplify the effect of a growth mindset.
  • Research shows how detrimental it can be to praise our students by saying, “You are so smart!”  Head on over to the Schoolhouse Divas blog to see a free downloadable poster of alternative phrases for giving students positive feedback.
  • Edudemic recently published an article by Sarah Muthler on, “Why a Growth Mindset is Crucial to Learning,” that gives a good summary about growth mindset for those who may just be beginning to learn about growth and fixed mindsets.

After looking at these resources, I hope that you will make the resolution to model and teach a growth mindset to your students and/or your own children.


Upgrade Your World

In Kid President’s most recent inspirational video, he invites all of us to “upgrade the world.”  What are some ways we can do that?  Be awesome to everyone around us, donate to a local shelter, and help animals are some of his suggestions.  But, as we know, there are many more upgrades the world could use.  So, share this video with as many people as you can, and challenge them to discover ways they can make a positive difference in this world.  Teachers, this would be a great way to start the second semester, and a good introduction to Genius Hour/Passion Projects!

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.22.33 PM
From Kid President Upgrades the World

For more ideas on what we can do to make this world a better place, check out this Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Kids. Be sure to tweet out the upgrades you personally make with #DoGreatThings!


Creativity Kickers

Jeanne Muzi recently posted two lists of “Creativity Kickers” on the blog, Four O’Clock Faculty. The lists offer great ideas for formative assessments and creative challenges.  In “Creativity Kickers, Part 1,” I found a couple I would like to try in my own classroom, such as the “Yes, And… Cards” and the “Student Created Knowledge Cards.” The second post, “Creativity Kickers, Part 2,” suggests the “Brain Breaks Cup,” which is a great idea that I’ve seen used by one of my colleagues and highly recommend.  The “Character in Search of Setting” suggestion is a fun idea for encouraging some creative thinking that I would also like to try out.

Check out the rest of the options by clicking on the links above!