Category Archives: Motivation

Gifts for the Gifted – Creative Struggle

 A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

This year, I have decided to do my annual “Gifts for the Gifted” posts all in one week.  This should give anyone who likes to shop ahead of time a good start!  For this year’s suggestions so far, click here.

I adore the work of Gavin Aung Than.  His Zen Pencils site features illustrations of inspiring quotes, and he has published several books.  This year, he added Creative Struggle: Illustrated Advice from Masters of Creativity to his long list of accomplishments.  I enjoyed seeing lesser know quotes in the collection, and felt particularly moved by the “Creative Pep Talk #1” entry.  It illustrates the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti, and supports my philosophy that we should focus more on the process than the product in education.  “Our present education is rotten because it teaches us to love success and not what we are doing.  The result has become more important than the action.”  He criticizes our desire for fame and lauds anyone who “is a creative human being living anonymously.”

This book would be appropriate for teens and up, or for teachers to use in the classroom with any age.  As I try to convince my students to venture outside of their comfort zones and get frustrated with my own creative attempts and failures, the words of Brene Brown, so well depicted in Than’s book, keep me going:

“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.”

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Creative Struggle by Zen Pencils Cartoonist, Gavin Aung Than
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30 Things I Believe

My 5th graders spend the last semester examining their own beliefs, developing manifestos, and researching a Dream Team of people who exemplify what they stand for.  We use some of the “This I Believe” curriculum to help them identify their values.  Yesterday, my students and I listened to one of the short radio essays archived on the website for the podcast.  It is called, “30 Things I Believe.”  In this particular episode, a first grader, Tarak McLain, reflects on his Kindergarten 100th Day Project.  While most students bring collections of 100 objects, Tarak brought in 100 things he believes.  For the podcast, Tarak shares 30 of those beliefs.  My students and I enjoyed listening to his earnestly read list, and talked about what they agreed/disagreed with.  We also discussed which of Tarak’s beliefs might change as he grows up.

Tarak would be about 16 years old now.  I wonder what his thoughts are on the manifesto created by his 7-year-old self.

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Here’s to the Lives That You’re Gonna Change

It’s the season of graduations, and Jason Mraz just released the perfect song to accompany every single one of them.  I played it yesterday as my 4th graders were working on mandalas, and they left the classroom singing the chorus in unison on the way to lunch.

The song, “Have it All,” is one of those catchy tunes that you don’t have to be a music producer to predict will be an instant hit.  It will lift your heart even more when you watch the video.  Students from Binford Middle School in Richmond, VA, (where Mraz has mentored since last year) appear in segments of this uplifting short film. The custodian gets a starring role, too!

Jason Mraz is a master of lyrics, and your students may enjoy analyzing such lines as, “May you be as fascinating as the slap bracelet.”  My favorite is the one I used to title this blog post.

For more inspiration for the students who are embarking on new chapters in their lives, you may want to check out this collection of videos I posted last year.  I also have a list of books that make great graduation gifts.

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Inspiration from Apple

Apple made some announcements yesterday regarding additional support for educators with new products and management tools.  You can read about it here.  As part of its “Everyone Can Create” campaign, the company released a new video, “One Person Can Change the World.”  Of course, its ultimate purpose is to sell Apple products, but listening to the children narrating may make you ready to go out and do something incredible.  A couple of great quotes from the short video are:

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As I watched the video on YouTube, I noticed another Apple video from 2014 that I don’t remember seeing before today.  This second video is called, “Perspective,” and I can’t wait to show it to my students.  As Apple states in the video description, “Here’s to those who have always seen things differently.”

Both of these videos will be added to my Pinterest page of Inspirational Videos for Students.

Mockups

In that creepy way that Amazon has of knowing all about you, it recommended Mockups to me when I was searching for another brainstorming game someone had recommended on Twitter.  The original game was not available, so I thought I would give Mockups a try instead.

Mockups is a good game to practice Design Thinking.  It includes cards of three different colors.  Pick a card of each color, and you suddenly have a Design Thinking Challenge.  A white card tells you the person you are designing for, the gray card tells you what to design, and the black card will give you a constraint for that design.

As an example, I just randomly selected: Adventurous Preschoolers, A Way to Keep Their Hands Warm, Absorbent.  There are suggested “games” to play using the card, such as giving the challenge to teams to come up with the best answer or making groups work silently on creating a solution.  Of course, you can use the cards however you want.

This can be a fun way to encourage creativity, and students can learn empathy and new vocabulary as they design.  The suggested ages, according to Amazon, are 6+.  I took out the card, “bartenders,” but didn’t see any others that were objectionable.

For some other Makerspace challenge ideas, check out this recent post.

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Mockups can be purchased here.

The Desire to Learn

I teach students who have been identified as “gifted.”  Yet I know that there are many kinds of giftedness that may not be measured by the tests we give.  I also know that there are students who qualify for my program who sometimes have difficulty in school – and in life.  Being labeled “gifted” does not guarantee success; not being “gifted” does not doom one to failure.

When my daughter entered school, we had the choice of whether or not to have her take a test that might qualify her to skip kindergarten.  One of the people I asked for advice said, “Well, it depends.  Many of the students who skip a grade don’t end up qualifying for the gifted program.  How important is it for your child to be ‘gifted?’  At this point, she may always be at the top of her class, but if she skips kindergarten she may not stand out so much.”

We let her take the test.  It was more important for me to make sure she would be at a level appropriate to her ability most of the time than for her to receive a label that would only guarantee a couple of hours a week of advanced curriculum.

She passed the test and moved to 1st grade her second week of school.  When she was tested for Gifted and Talented later that year, she did not qualify.

I’ll admit that it stung a bit.  I teach gifted and talented students and, like many parents, I was pretty proud of my own child’s intelligence.  But she had an incredible first grade teacher (thanks, Mrs. Whitworth!) and it was clear that my daughter was well-suited for the academics she encountered.  The only time I’ve regretted the decision for her to skip kindergarten is when I realized that it meant I had one less year to save for college – and to prepare for an empty nest.

My daughter eventually qualified for the Gifted and Talented program.  I was happy because I knew she would learn even more great things from the teacher, Mrs. Balbert.  I was even fortunate to have my daughter in my own GT class her last year of elementary school.

But I would have been fine if she had not ever been identified as gifted.  Because what I admire most about my daughter is not her grades or her label.  It is her desire to learn.  She is intrinsically motivated and willing to try new things. She chooses activities and classes that interest her, and works hard because they were her choices.

This is what I tell parents of students who do not qualify for our program – just as GT does not equal accomplishment, not being in a GT program does not condemn a student to an average life.  In fact, according to the Fullerton Longitudinal Study, which you can read about here, it is the “motivationally gifted” who seem to reap the most benefits when it comes to advanced academic degrees and leadership potential.  And, as you’ve probably guessed, not many GT programs test for intrinsic motivation.

The good news – and the bad news – is that the desire to learn can be fostered in any child when parents and educators shift the focus of learning to encouraging curiosity and the development of strengths and away from the emphasis on grade point averages.

Parents, do your child a favor by disregarding class rank, and work with the school to find courses that interest him or her.  Model your own enjoyment of learning new things and taking calculated risks.  Help your child to understand what it feels like to pursue a difficult challenge because it is interesting instead of because it will look good on a transcript.

Educators, think about what you can do to contribute to providing environments that nurture the desire to learn.  (Shift This, by Joy Kirr, is a great book to help you get started.) Cultivate student interests and strengths whenever you have the opportunity.

GT, Honors, AP, straight A’s, should not be badges of honor – or shame.  I was devastated when I wasn’t first in my class in high school, but it hasn’t made a speck of difference in my success or lack of it.  Fortunately, I never lost my desire to learn. Just a few months ago, I learned how to change my own flat tire, and it felt pretty good.  Until my daughter clocked me in the head with the car door.  “Car-ma” for being a little too proud of my own accomplishment.  Is it possible to be overly intrinsically motivated?  Maybe that should be the follow-up study…

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Kid President Printables

Now, if you don’t know by now that I adore Kid President, you need to see this post, and, well, pretty much any of these.  That is why I was so excited to find that We Are Teachers is offering a set of free Kid President printable posters here.  And I just got my own laminator, so I am going to be making good use of it.  (I never knew I wanted to laminate so many things until I got this little gadget!) By the way, We Are Teachers has a lot of other sets of free printables that you can find here, including 5 free kindness posters which I’m ready to laminate and post anonymously in numerous public places or maybe just hire a plane to drop like leaflets all over the country…

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image from Wikimedia