Tag Archives: growth mindset

The Roses of Success

Edutopia’s Amy Erin Borovoy (@VideoAmy) recently curated a collection of videos that she titled, “Freedom to Fail Forward.” Always looking for ways to teach my younger students about developing a Growth Mindset, I was pleased to see that her final suggestion was a clip from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang called, “The Roses of Success.”

Here is a sample of the song lyrics:

“Every bursted bubble has a glory!
Each abysmal failure makes a point!
Every glowing path that goes astray,
Shows you how to find a better way.
So every time you stumble never grumble.
Next time you’ll bumble even less!
For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!”

As you can see, the message of the song is to learn from your mistakes and to use those setbacks to help yourself to improve.

image from http://www.idea-sandbox.com/blog/a-flying-car-ashes-dick-van-dyke-and-innovation/
image from http://www.idea-sandbox.com/

Visit Video Amy’s post for this video and other recommendations for learning to “fail forward.”

For more Growth Mindset links, check out this Pinterest Board!

A Growth Mindset for Math Class

No one was more surprised than I was when I won the Honors Geometry medal in high school.  For the first 8 years of school I accepted the incontrovertible fact that I was “not a math person.” Reading and writing came easily to me, and I was often praised in those areas – but math homework often resulted in tears of frustration and papers full of holes from too many erasures.

Everything changed in high school.  My teachers encouraged me and were patient with my questions.  I grew bolder with those questions because I was attending an all-girls school and felt less intimidated by the boys who always dominated math class with their speedy mental math in my early years.

I suddenly realized that I loved math.

Fortunately, that revelation didn’t happen too late.

You can make sure your own students don’t suffer from the same math identity crisis. From @naomiharm I learned there is a website called “youcubed” that is devoted to making everyone a “math person.”  It provides math resources to educators, students and parents. One section is devoted to “Growth Mindset.” If you have no time to browse any other section (though I encourage you to do so), I urge you to download the “Positive Classroom Norms” by Jo Boaler.  These 7 messages are a great way to develop a growth mindset in your math students.

from "Positive Classroom Norms" by Jo Boaler
from “Positive Classroom Norms” by Jo Boaler

If you download the packet, you will receive a page explaining each norm in-depth (some of them include links to videos) as well as a summary page you can post in your classroom.

If this topic interests you, then you might also like to visit my Growth Mindset and/or my STEM Inspiration Pinterest Boards.

I’m Not a Very Good Public Speaker – Yet

I don’t usually write posts on the weekend, but I know people tend to read this blog to find resources for their classrooms, so I don’t want anyone to feel cheated by me sticking a reflective piece in the midst of my weekday posts.  I’ll be back on Monday with more ideas to engage your students!

Poll my family and my close friends for my biggest weaknesses, and I can tell you exactly what will top the list – cooking.  I have never been and never will be a genius in the kitchen.

But that isn’t because I wasn’t born with some kind of Iron Chef gene.  It’s mostly because I really don’t want to learn to be a good cook.  Cooking doesn’t interest me.  And, if I didn’t have a family, I’d be fine with eating cereal for dinner every night.  Since my husband seems to enjoy the process of making a meal almost as much as he enjoys disassembling the kitchen three times a day, I’m more than happy to leave the whole thing to him.

Now, I’m not saying that I could rival Julia Child if I just put my mind to it, but I certainly think I could get better than I am right now – if I wanted to.

It’s all about that Growth Mindset that I’ve been preaching to my students.  Not everything will come easily to you, but if you have the motivation to work hard at getting better at something, you will.  It’s easy to say, “I’m just no good at math,” and accept that it’s just the way you were born and it will never change.  But it’s the lazy way out.

I don’t aspire to be a great cook, but I do really want to become a better public speaker.  Like many teachers, I have no problem speaking to a large group of students, but I get paralyzed in a room of my peers.  I hate that about myself, and I refuse to accept it.  The logical part of my brain tells me that this fear is ridiculous, yet the rest of my body apparently takes issue with that.

The other day I had the opportunity to speak in front of a pretty large group of people.  It’s a bit of a blur, but I am pretty confident that I did not put my best foot forward.  Afterward, I assured myself that public speaking is definitely not my calling – and I need to just accept that and stop putting myself in positions that require it.  In fact, I was thinking the best option would be to just lock myself in my house and never show my face in public again.  Just thinking about that possibility gave me a sense of calm and amazing optimism.

But then I felt like a hypocrite.  Because I’m always telling my students to step outside their comfort zones.  And here I am sneaking my way back into mine – and making a plan to build a brick wall around it.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 1.19.35 PM

Yep.  The casket sounds a lot better than the podium to me.  I could be wrong, but that’s not really the attitude that I’ve been preaching to my students.

So, I’m not ready to accept defeat.  I’m going to keep trying.  I have some messages to share about education, and I would like to be able to deliver those messages without dissolving into a sweaty puddle of paranoia.

I don’t have any delusions that I will become a great speaker.  Some people really do have that gift, and I am not one of them.  I also don’t have any delusions that I will lose the fear.  I listened to a great TED talk recently about a singer, Joe Kowan, with stage fright.  To conquer his problem, he did the logical thing and made himself perform even more.

It didn’t work.

But Joe didn’t give up.  Instead, he wrote a song about stage fright., and continues to perform despite his fear.  He actually uses all of the awkwardness of his problem to his advantage in the song.  Here’s an excerpt:

“♫ I’m not joking, you know, ♫ ♫ this stage fright is real. ♫ ♫ And if I’m up here trembling and singing, ♫♫ well, you’ll know how I feel. ♫ ♫ And the mistake I’d be making, ♫ ♫ the tremolo caused by my whole body shaking. ♫ ♫ As you sit there feeling embarrassed for me, ♫ ♫ well, you don’t have to be. ♫ ♫ Well, maybe just a little bit. ♫ (Laughter) ♫ And maybe I’ll try to imagine you all without clothes. ♫ ♫ But singing in front of all naked strangers scares me more than anyone knows. ♫ ♫ Not to discuss this at length, ♫ ♫ but my body image was never my strength. ♫ ♫ So frankly, I wish that you all would get dressed, ♫ ♫ I mean, you’re not even really naked. ♫ ♫ And I’m the one with the problem.”

I’ve got a few other ideas to try before I employ Joe’s method to deal with my problem.  If there is anything that I can imagine to be more intimidating than speaking in front of a large ballroom full of people, singing to them would top that list.

But I’d rather do either one of those than cook.


Growth Mindset Animation

This cute video was recently tweeted by @askteacherzcom.  I think it’s a great video to show anyone, but elementary children will definitely benefit from this brief explanation of the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.  They will understand the story of the Tortoise and the Hare as an example. And I’m pretty sure they will enjoy the Batman reference as well!

from Growth Mindset Animation
from Growth Mindset Animation

To view some other Mindset Videos, click here.  And, if you would like some more resources, check out my Pinterest Board.

Not Yet

The only thing more intimidating than coming up with an idea for your last blog post of the year is coming up with a topic for your first post of the year.

I looked up my first post of 2014.  It was about changing mindsets from Fixed to Growth, based on the research of Carol Dweck.  I am happy to say that I worked hard during the year to live up to the goal of establishing a classroom with a Growth Mindset.  In fact, I might have worked too hard on it.

“What are you doing?” I asked some students one day.  They were playing a logic game that has challenge cards that are sequenced from easiest to hardest.  The game had started 5 minutes earlier, and the next time I passed their group I saw they were already on the last (most difficult) card.  “You just started this.  You can’t already be on the last card.”

“But the first one was too easy – and you’re always telling us we should look for challenges for our brain.  When we say something is hard, you say, ‘Good!’ ”

I stopped, speechless.

“Uh, yes, but…”

See, the problem is that I see students do this all of the time.  All too often they jump from the easiest card to the most complex.  Then they get frustrated by the incredibly difficult last challenge and give up on the game completely – not realizing that if they had gone through the carefully scaffolded puzzles in between they would have learned some of the skills needed for the last challenge.

But how could I explain that without recanting all of my speeches about a “Growth Mindset” and refusing to stay in your comfort zone where everything is easy?

I didn’t.  I walked away, but listened carefully to the conversation that went from determination to slow surrender and frustration.

“We can’t do this. Let’s just look at the answer,” someone finally said.

“Yes, you can,” I said.  “But not yet.  Start from the beginning and you will find out what you need to do to solve that last card.”

You can’t just jump to the top of a mountain from the base.  It might be easy to hike through those foothills, but it’s not a waste of time, and it’s necessary to get some experience before you try to reach the peak.

It’s not failure to slow down and put in some practice. In fact, I think most “experts” would agree that it’s critical to success.

So, in this new year, my goal is to help my students understand that “starting with easy” is okay – just as long as you keep improving.

You can see what Carol Dweck recently said in her TEDx Talk about the Power of Yet, shared by Larry Ferlazzo on his blog.

I also have more resources on Growth Mindset on this Pinterest Board.

Not Yet

Don’t Blame Me

My daughter is a synchronized swimmer.  One of the little-known facts outside the sport is that these athletes paint gelatin on their hair before a performance or competition to keep their hair up and out of their faces.  The practice is called, “knoxing.”

My daughter had 2 performances on Saturday, and so we began the morning with the tedious process of putting her hair into a bun with a thousand bobby pins, mixing unflavored gelatin with hot water, and applying it to her head.

Unfortunately, something went wrong.  I’m not sure what it was, but the knox looked somewhat lumpy.  By the end of her 1st performance, I realized with great dismay that the knox was in clumps all over her head.

“We’re going to have to re-knox before the next show,” I informed her in the car.

“No!” she pleaded.  “It’s fine!”

“You haven’t looked in a mirror, yet,” I said.  “Trust me, it’s bad.  I’m sorry.  I messed up.  You’re going to have to rinse it all off and we’ll start over.”

Bad knox job

“No, we can just paint over it!”

I shook my head.  “I don’t think that’s going to work.  It looks too awful.”

“But I don’t want to redo it!”

I was about to argue more, and then I stopped for a moment.  Why was I trying to persuade her to redo it?  I hate knoxing.  If neither one of us wanted it done, then why was I insisting?  Was it really for her benefit?

Or mine?

I realized that the reason I wanted to redo it wasn’t because I was worried about her feelings if someone criticized the way her hair looked.  It was because I was worried about what people would think about me.

I could hear the whispers already.  “That mom is horrible.  Look at what a bad knoxing job she did.  And she let her daughter swim that way!”

But glops of gelatin weren’t going to effect her performance.

I revised my statement.  I thought about what she would want – to make her own decision.  “Okay.  When you look at it, if you want me to redo it, I will.”

In a blog post that I once did about Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, I included this quote from his book:  “what people are afraid of isn’t failure.  It’s blame.”

As a parent, I worry that I’m going to get blamed if things go wrong for my child.  It makes me reluctant to allow her to make mistakes, or to sometimes make her own decisions.

As a teacher, I do the same thing.  If a parent questions a decision I made, I fear blame and become defensive.  If a student doesn’t do what I envisioned on a project, I worry that people will think I didn’t teach well enough.

We need to regularly ask ourselves, “Is this about me or is this about the child?”  Often we make decisions that are supposedly the best for the child – but they are really about keeping ourselves from being blamed.

In the end, my daughter decided to allow me to re-knox her hair.  And it looked much better.  But I would have been fine if she hadn’t – and so would she.  That day I learned two things that I should never do:

  • inflict my own insecurities on others
  • put lumpy gelatin on my daughter’s head.
A better job!
A better job!