Behavior, Education, K-12, Parenting, Philosophy, Science, Teaching Tools, Videos

The Advantages of Being a Poser


On Monday’s post, I told the story of my year as a “poser” – pretending that I was a mathematical genius during my 9th grade year in Algebra 1.  Miraculously, this inadvertent deception resulted in inspiring great confidence in my abilities on the part of my teacher.  Subsequently, her faith made me see myself in a different light. Basically, I developed a growth mindset about math, that led to 3 more years of success in that subject.

I recently heard a TED Talk on NPR’s TED Radio Hour that supported this “Fake it ’til you make it” philosophy.  Amy Cuddy, who is a social psychologist, explains how standing in certain “High Power Poses” for 2 minutes has been scientifically proven to improve your confidence levels.  You can listen to Amy’s interview on TED Radio Hour here. She describes how, after sustaining a severe head injury in a car accident, Amy found herself in the position of “poser” when attending college – and succeeded in making everyone believe that she belonged there. This experience ultimately led to her research discussed during her TED talk.

You can find a great graphic of Power Poses as well as a link to her original TED talk on the TED blog.  Amy pleads for you to share this information with people, as she deeply feels that it can significantly effect the outcomes of many lives.

Even though this story does not specifically refer to the Growth Mindset, I feel that it is certainly a good example that demonstrates how your attitude and hard work can directly impact your future.

Update:  I just added a 2nd video to this post, “Courage: Ask Amy,” in which Amy Poehler gives advice that makes a lot of sense when you take into account the conclusions Amy Cuddy has derived from her research.

Here is another post that I recently did on mindsets that includes videos and other resources.

6-12, Education, Motivation, Videos

The Motivation of the Near Win

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My daughter, 11, is a synchronized swimmer.  She also, recently, has become deeply interested in archery (along with most females her age who have read The Hunger Games).  So, it was providential when I ran across this video this weekend right after our Regional Synchronized Swimming Meet.

Last year, one of the routines my daughter worked on the hardest on was her solo. She received a lot of encouragement from several coaches that gave us hope that she would be a true contender in that event.  So, when she made 4th place (meaning that she did not qualify for Nationals), the news was tough to take.

This year, freshly invigorated, she made another attempt at the solo competition.

If you are not familiar with synchronized swimming, you might be surprised at the athleticism required for this sport.  An article in Popular Science states, “According the USOC, the synchronized swimming team practices more than any other sport. Between eight and ten hours a day, six days a week.”

Of course, my daughter does not practice that much, but dedicates at least 10 hours a week to synchronized swimming – a kind of perseverance that consistently astounds me.

This year, even more time was spent on extra preparation.  After all of my recent preaching about mindset and working harder, I couldn’t help but wonder if another disappointment might make me relapse into that fixed mindset of despair that we have any control over our own fates.

As I watched my daughter perform her solo, my heart soared at the smile on her face and the obvious enjoyment she felt.  Other parents in the stands commented on how fun it was to watch.  Several people confided that they were certain she had won.

When the results were posted, my heart sank.  She hadn’t won.

She got 2nd place.

Even harder to swallow, her duet got 5th place.

On the way home, I asked how she felt about everything.  2nd place in Solo, which qualifies her for Nationals, and was a vast improvement over the 4th place from last year, made her happy.  5th place in Duet upset her deeply.

And yet, “Oh, we’re already working on what we want to do next year,” she shared about the plans she and her duet partner have been making. “Yes, I want extra practice,” she agreed regarding her solo that isn’t quite good enough – yet.  No tears, just a weary sigh and new resolve.

My daughter never ceases to inspire me.  As I watched her line dancing with some of her teammates last night at a get-together for the competitors (I would have chopped off both my legs when I was her age rather than dance in front of complete strangers), I realized that I certainly haven’t mastered this job of being a mom, but the “near wins” have galvanized me to want to try.  As Sarah Lewis states in the video below, “Mastery is in the reaching, not the arriving. It’s in constantly wanting to close that gap between where you are and where you want to be.” 

In synchronized swimming, in parenting, and in teaching, the “near wins” are what motivate us to do better, to have hope that we can make a positive difference with the right amount of effort.

Watch the video below to see Sarah Lewis describe what it means to “Embrace The Near Win.”

Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Motivation, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Videos

How to Tell a Magical Tale


There is no doubt that augmented reality will play a huge part in education during the next decade.  You can already see it beginning to burgeon as you read blogs and educational articles.  Apps like Aurasma, Zooburst, ColAR, Spacecraft 3d, and AR Flashcards, make something that seemed to be merely science fiction into a classroom reality.

In the video embedded below, Marco Tempest uses augmented reality to give a presentation for TED.  His use of “magic” certainly makes his story engaging, but I actually connected to his message more than the illusions.

Tempest compares magic to successful jokes: “In that respect, magic tricks are like jokes. Jokes lead us down a path to an expected destination. But when the scenario we have imagined suddenly flips into something entirely unexpected, we laugh.”

This is what I would like to share with my students.  Too often, they believe that they are expected to provide the predictable, to write stories that follow the same conventions, to regurgitate what has been modeled for them.  They do this when they create presentations, too.  I want to encourage them to attempt to be unpredictable.  Make your reader or audience believe that they know what is going to happen, and then completely surprise them.

I think this is useful in teaching, as well.  Too often, we fall into our own structured routines.  Though some students need predictability, they also delight in a bit of wonderment.  In this way, we can capture their attention, and make lasting impressions.  Augmented reality can help us with this, but it is just one of many tools (and not all of them are technological) that we can use to create a novel experience that will capture the attention of our students.

6-12, Education, Motivation, Parenting, Philosophy, Videos

True Colors

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This performance by John Legend for TED says it all.  This is what all children want to hear from the adults in their lives.  I think it makes a good companion piece to this post by David Brooks, “The Seven Most Important People in A Child’s Life”.  And, maybe it’s the kind of connection high school student, Jeff Bliss, really wishes all teachers would establish with their students…

Apps, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12, Philosophy, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites, Writing

Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated

First of all, did you know that TED, the fabulous producer of videos with “Ideas Worth Spreading”, now produces ebooks?  If you did, why didn’t you tell me?  Fortunately, I read the San Antonio’s Express News on Sunday, and found out about it when they published a brief review of one of the ebooks you can find at TED, Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated.

Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated is a book of Six-Word Memoirs collected by Larry Smith.  If you have not been introduced to Six-Word Memoirs, yet, I highly recommend that you read my original post on this topic, as it includes some other resources in which you may be interested.

In this new publication, which can be downloaded for Kindle, iBooks, or Nook for $2.99, Mr. Smith collected memoirs from students of all ages (grade school to grad school), and included the pictures that they drew to accompany them.  Some of them, like “Hey, my swimming lessons paid off,” by Charlotte Berkenbile (8) in Keller, Texas, are amusing.  Others, like “My alarm clock killed my dreams,” by Shawn Budlong (13) in Rockford, Illinois, are more thought-provoking.  Some of the illustrations are just as moving as the text.

I highly recommend this very affordable download.  If you are working with younger kids (K-3), you probably won’t want to show them the whole book, but select a few pieces as examples.  For older kids, there are many possible discussion starters in here, and definitely inspiration for them to create their own Six-Word Memoirs.

(By the way, TED Books also offers an app and a subscription.  If you subscribe for $4.99/month, you have immediate access to all of the current ebooks, and will receive a new ebook every two weeks.)


Education, Motivation, Teaching Tools, Videos

Bring on the Learning Revolution!

Thanks to our principal, Mr. Hinds, for showing “Bring on the Learning Revolution!” during our final staff meeting of the school year today.  I had seen Sir Ken Robinson’s other TED video, “Schools Kill Creativity”, but had somehow missed this later lecture from Sir Ken Robinson. I really loved everything about this inspirational speech, but one part sounded eerily like something that I have observed myself in our educational system.  Sir Ken Robinson says, “I think we are obsessed with getting people to college. Certain sorts of college. I don’t mean you shouldn’t go to college, but not everybody needs to go and not everybody needs to go now. Maybe they go later, not right away.”  He speaks of finding the passion of our students and of not trying to stick to such a linear progression in our school systems, where everyone is expected to travel the same route from Kindergarten to College.  I hope more people will view his video, and participate in bringing about this learning revolution.