Tag Archives: growth mindset

Teachers Need a Growth Mindset, Too

Before I start, I want to assure you that this is not a post asking for sympathy or reassurance.

Some people might read my blog and come away with the mistaken impression that I am a very confident person who is an amazingly effective teacher.  That is very far from the truth.  I try to keep this blog positive so others will be inspired – and there is enough negativity in the world of education without me adding to it. However, I don’t want to give the false impression that I’m a super teacher who somehow manages to transcend all of the real-world problems that teachers face every day.

So, allow me to share some of my not-so-super thoughts from the last 7 days.  These were just some of the real moments of doubt that infused my brain last week:

  • Why can’t those 2 boys just work on their Cardboard Challenge projects instead of wandering around and getting off-task?  Why can’t I motivate them enough to stay on-task?
  • Why did only 4 out of 18 students in my 5th grade class do the assignments they volunteered to do on their own time last week? Now we have no videos or announcements to advertise the Cardboard Challenge and it’s only a week away!  What made me think they would actually work on this at home?  Just because it’s a priority for me doesn’t mean it’s a priority for them.
  • Are my students learning anything from doing this project?  Or is it just an excuse for them to play around?
  • I can’t believe I didn’t test all of the laptops before we tried to use them this afternoon.  How is it that only 3 out of 8 laptops will even let the students log in – and the ones that do let them log in won’t show Google Classroom because the browser is too old, and our district Software Center won’t let me update them?  What a waste of 45 minutes plus the 20 minutes I took to prepare the assignment in the first place!
  • If a student thinks it’s funny to flick a piece of a cardboard and it makes a direct hit to another student’s eyeball, which he didn’t intend but it happened anyway, what consequence should follow and am I a bad teacher for not preventing it happening in the first place?
  • Why did I order twenty 6 in. packing tape refills for our six 3 in. dispensers?  Am I getting so close to retirement that I’m incapable of doing math now?
  • If giving my students the freedom to create is such a good thing, then why do I feel grumpy and have a giant headache?

I have to admit that I was feeling pretty glum and and worthless by the end of last week.  I loved the ideas my students and our Maker Club came up with for Cardboard Challenge, but I had huge doubts about the actual value of the whole experience.

I would like to say that I had an epiphany or that a student said something that made everything worthwhile.  But that’s not generally the case in real life, and it hasn’t happened here. Just like many teachers, I suspect, I have to talk my self down off the ledge several times a week.

My students are not the only ones who need to work on fostering a Growth Mindset. Instead of feeling powerless and worthless, I also need to make an effort to figure out what I’ve been doing wrong and fix it.  Instead of “throwing out the baby with the bath water,” (which is kind of a horrible idiom when you think about it!) I need to remember that some things are actually working and make adjustments to the ones that aren’t.


Star S’Mores

This week’s Phun Phriday post is the hilarious Sesame Street parody of Star Wars – Star S’Mores.

Star S'mores from Sesame Street
Star S’mores from Sesame Street

How can Flan Solo keep himself from eating his best friend and partner, Chewy? Watch the video below to find out if Darth Baker has the answer!

The Most Magnificent Book Hack

You may have read my fairly recent post about the adorable book, The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires.  This is a fantabulous book to read to your students to foster a Growth Mindset.  And, it ties in super well with my students’ current participation in the Global Cardboard Challenge.

I was looking for some other activities to tie in with the book, and came across an interesting slideshow of pictures of an event that was hosted at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum during which participants “hacked” the book.  They were given copies of the book and tons of craft material, and told to make what they wanted!

Despite the part of me that abhors destruction of any book, I love this idea.  If any book was made for a book hack, then this one is!  And I am so impressed by the amazing ideas dreamed up by the children.

Book Hack of The Most Magnificent Thing by Marie @kidscanpress.com
Book Hack by Marie of The Most Magnificent Thing @kidscanpress.com

You should also see the book hack that the famous “Property Brothers” of  HGTV did of the book.  If I can believe my aging eyes, it looks like they used Little Bits to make their very cool hack!  (This link takes you to the Facebook video of their hack, so you may not be able to view it at school.)

And, of course, a book hack would not be complete if the author did not participate!  Ashley Spires did her own amazing hack, and you can watch the embedded video below.

This entire concept combines two of my favorite topics in education right now for which you can find even more resources on my Pinterest Boards – Maker Education and Growth Mindset.  Some other great picture books that I’ve featured that support these themes are Rosie Revere, Engineer and Beautiful Oops.

Beautiful Oops

Sometimes, like the main character in The Dot, we are paralyzed by the worry that we can’t do something well enough.  And other times, we try to do something well and are devastated when it doesn’t go the way we planned.  Beautiful Oops is a book by Barney Saltzberg that encourages us to make the best of our mistakes.  It is a great book for younger children – full of interactive pages and colorful pictures.

from Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
from Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg


While I was looking for resources to accompany the book on the web, I found a great Pinterest Board from @KirstyHornblow that is full of ideas to go with the book.  For example, I am totally going to try the lemon juice/watercolor idea from artprojectsforkids.org.

from artprojectsforkids.org
from artprojectsforkids.org

Beautiful Oops is a nice way to talk about Growth Mindset with young students, and I am definitely going to add it to my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board.

By the way, I added a few extra resources to that board this weekend, including several that I found on Larry Ferlazzo’s site.  The one below, tweeted by @BradHandrich, fits the theme of this post quite well!

How Do You View Your Mistakes?

Growth Mindset and Why it Matters

I came across this Slide Rocket presentation on WhatKidsCanDo.org. If you are teaching older students or doing a professional development about mindset, this would be a great resource.  It includes links to several mindset videos, as well as suggested activities to go along with each one.  For more Growth Mindset resources, check out my Pinterest Board!

Growth Mindset from WhatKidsCanDo.org
image from: Growth Mindset Slide Rocket Presentation from WhatKidsCanDo.org

Thank You for Believing in Me More Than I Believed in Myself

image credit: @Heather Ciccone
image credit: @Heather Ciccone

The summer before I started high school, our family moved to Louisiana from Kentucky.  My first year of high school was miserable.  Not only was I a shy girl who didn’t know a soul, but the Louisiana humidity and classrooms without air-conditioning just about did me in.  My Biology teacher spent the majority of each class preaching against pre-marital sex, and the three years I had just spent in Kentucky trying to learn how to dribble and throw a basketball did not impress my new P.E. teacher.

My one saving grace was my Algebra I class.  For years, I had struggled in math; I remember many nights in 1st-8th grades arguing with my mother about the right way to do a problem and producing homework papers full of tear stains and erasure holes to my teacher each morning.  But, unbeknownst to my new school, I had already had two years of Algebra in 7th and 8th grade.  My transcript only showed it as a math class, and so, I was put in Algebra for the 3rd year in a row when I started high school.

By then, I knew all about this x and y stuff.  Algebra was, by far, my easiest class that year, and the tears I cried in 9th grade were never over math.

At the end of the year, however, I realized I had made a huge mistake.

My Algebra teacher, Mrs. O’Brien, called me into  her office.  “I’m recommending you for Honors Geometry next year,” she told me.  I was blind-sided.  Honors Geometry was for gifted math students.  I was not a gifted math student.  Had never been, would never be.  Where in the world did she get such a crazy idea? Then, I realized the problem.

“Oh, you think I’m good at math because I got good grades this year,” I said.  I knew I had to confess.  “I only did well because I’ve had Algebra before.  I’m not good at math.  Really.  Especially anything to do with shapes.  I would not do well in Honors Geometry, trust me.”

I felt a panic rising in me at this realization that this year of pretending to be what I was not was going to completely backfire on me.

Mrs. O’Brien looked at me.  “You are good in math.  And you will do well in Honors Geometry.  Trust me.”  And that was that.  With a flick of her wrist, she signed off on the form that would doom me to a Sophomore year littered with math anxiety.

I spent the entire summer before 10th grade consumed in regret at my short-sightedness.  I should have done worse in Algebra, pretended I was floundering, gone in for tutoring, kept myself from raising my hand so darn often.  Now I would be in for it.  But even then, even as I obsessed about this horrible year ahead, I felt a bit proud – it was nice to know that Mrs. O’Brien believed that I could be good in math.

Honors Geometry was taught by Ms. Michele.  Ms. Michele was beautiful.  Ms. Michele was smart.  And Ms. Michele was no-nonsense.  She was everything in a teacher that intimidated me.

Except she didn’t intimidate me.  When she taught, she used a method that I had never seen before in math.  Instead of just telling us what to do, she told us why to do it.  For everything there was a logical reason, and when I didn’t understand the reason and timidly raised my hand, she patiently explained it.

In fact, it got to the point where I didn’t have to raise my hand anymore.  Ms. Michele would scan the classroom, and pause on my face.  “Theresa, I can tell you have a question,” she would say.  (I was “Theresa” back then, not “Terri.”) And, instead of despairing at my consistent puzzlement, she would patiently back up and explain the concept a different way.

At the end of the year, I won the award for Honors Geometry.  I went on to Honors Algebra II, and then Calculus.  I will never pretend that I understood one thing I learned in Calculus, but I did fine, even so. For a girl who “just wasn’t any good at math,” I didn’t do too badly.

Back before there was such a buzz phrase as “Growth Mindset,” I had teachers who believed in me when I did not.  They helped me work through mistakes and figure out how to correct them.  I had similar experiences in Chemistry and Choir.  Even in English, which had always been my strength, I had many moments of doubt and self-hatred.  But kind teachers were always there to help me through.

So, during this week of Teacher Appreciation, I would like to thank those women and men at Archbishop Blenk High School who helped me to believe in myself.  Ms. Michele and Mrs. O’Brien are two of them.  Ms. Collins, Dr. Antoine, and Mrs. McGee also made a difference, along with many others who, I’m sorry to say, I cannot remember all of these years later.  Thank you to all of you who devoted your time and effort to the education of the girls at Archbishop Blenk High School.  I’m sure I expressed my gratitude when I graduated, but I want you to know that, even now, I am so thankful for the part you played in my life.