Flashback To Helicopter Mom

A year ago I wrote a post about me being a helicopter mom with my daughter while she attempted to climb up the ladder of our playset in our backyard. This summer I had flashbacks to this article I posted when my son attempted the same thing. However, he is a year younger than she was at the time! 

My son just turned a year old and isn’t walking yet, but climbs like it’s nobody’s business. He started reaching up high to grab rungs on the ladder, ready to scale it as fast as his little body would let him. As I rushed over and picked him up, the words from my past post rang in my head. 

““Be careful! Be careful!” I kept telling her. All while her feet never left the ground.”

His two feet were firmly planted on the ground as I picked him up in the worry of him falling and failing. I hadn’t even given him a chance to try

Realizing my mistake, I set him down and let him try again. He fumbled through the process of climbing, sometimes not knowing where his hands or feet would go. I would step in and guide him through this, then step back and watch him figure out the rest. Eventually, he did it! He made it to the top and beamed with pride over his accomplishment. (Cover photo of him satisfied with success.)

Almost to success! I was feeling comfortable enough in his ability to step back and take a picture.

A few takeaways I learned from this: 

  1. We may figure things out as a parent or as a teacher, but we continually need to learn and grow and be reminded of those things. Just because I had the helicopter moment with my daughter a year previously did not automatically help me to know how to handle the exact same situation with my son. I needed the reminder. 
  2. The same can apply to our kids- they need reminders and to be told again, and again, and again. And we need to give them grace for this. 

What is something with your students you have to relearn again every year? How do you let your kids fail to find success? 

Let’s Grow With A Growth Mindset!

Have you heard of a growth mindset? Many schools are embracing and adopting this idea for their teachers and students to study and use in their work. What is a growth mindset? Why is it important? How can we use it to our advantage? 

There is research that our brains can and will grow. Our learning is not limited to our brain’s capacity, but to our drive and work, we put into the learning. Having a fixed mindset is thinking, “I am who I am. My personality, abilities, and intelligence cannot change because they were predetermined when I was born.” A growth mindset is saying “I can learn and change who I am and how I act if I am willing to put in the time and effort to grow, stretch, and learn.” 

Challenges, failures, and shortcomings are welcomed with open arms to those with a growth mindset because they view them as an opportunity to grow and learn. This infographic is one of my favorites to show the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. 

Carol Dweck Ph. D, who has researched the idea of a growth mindset and wrote a book on the idea states, 

“Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”

So now that we know what is it, why is it important to us? Well, the obvious is for our students. Let’s teach them to have a growth mindset, let’s show them how they can positively affirm in their minds that they may not be able to do it… yet. But with work, they can. 

But let’s also remember ourselves. Wherever you are in the education field, not only are you educating students, but you’re educating yourself as well. You are constantly learning about new teaching methods, new education findings, information on your students, information about your school. The education never stops when you’re an educator yourself, so apply this to you! 

Maybe that ESL endorsement class is hard for you. The homework is overwhelming and time management isn’t in your favor. You can’t do it… yet. But you can do it if you try! 

I have told my daughter for as long as she could understand me, “We can do hard things!” and I’ve said it to her often, as well as had her repeat it back to me while she is attempting something difficult such as riding a bike for the first time. I recently changed our positive affirmation to give her a little more information and confidence. 

“I can do it if I try.” 

We can do hard things and I want her to remember that. But I also want her to know that “if I try” is just as important in repeating and saying to ourselves. We can try new things, we can do hard things if we try!”. 

How do you use a growth mindset in your classroom? What have you seen as an outcome of using a growth mindset not only for your students but for yourself? 

Quote and info-graphic from brainpickings.org

My #OneWord2019 Almost Broke Me. Carefully Choosing My #OneWord2020

Hi, all! Mary Wade here again for a couple of posts as I wrap up my winter break. It has been a much-needed time, filled with family snuggles, house projects, and even potty training. I am feeling ready to jump back into the kindergarten fray on Monday. But first, I’d like to start with my one word goal for 2020.

I have loved my one word goal journey.

2017’s year of synthesis brought clarity and connection.

2018’s year of power brought hope and resolve.

And 2019’s year of flexibility has brought, well…more than I bargained for.

Choosing flexibility has yielded tremendous growth and opportunities. But the truth is, that discomfort nearly brought this planning-centric TeacherMom to a breaking point. Accepting a last-minute kindergarten teaching position, trying daycare for the first time, stepping into the spotlight on an sharp local political issue–none of these are arenas I would have imagined for myself. And all had me exclaiming out loud a few times, “I take it all back on growth mindset being a good thing!!

Of course, this is exactly why flexibility was exactly what I needed. Both figuratively and literally, by the way–I’m pleased to share that I can now touch my toes after a year of trying to stretch as often as possible!

But as I ponder the intensity of this last year’s one word goal, and the seriousness of all my one word goals thus far, I think the time has come for a year of…joy. Not that these previous years have not brought joy, and not that I want to retreat from the stretching and growing that has been so valuable for me.

One of my favorite photos I took last year.

It’s that I recognize that for me, the exercise of identifying joy–especially amid difficulty–will yield at least as much growth as might the weightier-sounding endeavors like “discipline” or “grit.” My strength in planning can quickly become my weakness as I’m prone to excessive regimentation and delayed gratification, pushing aside frivolity if I feel like it will stand in the way of productivity.

This year, I will choose to embrace messy interruptions and the bouts of silliness that come with raising and teaching children. I will choose to deliberately linger on moments of wonder and delight, seeking out new ways to document, savor, and share. I will also choose to notice when pressure to perform threatens to swallow the joy from my days.

I look forward to this year of joy and the new and different ways I hope to grow!

Inquiry Into Being a Mathematician

This is the 3rd installment of learning identities provocations (completed: Inquiry into being a Writer, Reader).

Inquiring into what it means to be a mathematician is near and dear to my heart because I certainly never identified as such during my school years. So many of us are/were of this mindset: convinced that mathematicians are those people, with little to do with us.

But the truth is we can all start telling  ourselves a much more inclusive story. Being bad at recalling math facts does not exclude one from being a mathematician; nor does being a pro at reciting math facts automatically create a mathematician. Rather, we must all reframe our thinking, identifying our own very real, practicable, and even creative mathematical applications, that do, in fact, make us mathematicians.

Resource #1: Beauty of Mathematics by Parachutes

Resource #2: Tweet by Aviva Dunsinger

Resource #3: Which One Doesn’t Belong? collaborative website by Mary Bourassa

Resource #4: Infinity & Me by Kate Hosford & Gabi Swiatkowska & A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman & Isabel Greenberg

 

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to be a mathematician?
  • How does doing math compare to being a mathematician?
  • What is the connection between creativity and being a mathematician?
  • How can we build our sense of ourselves as mathematicians?
  • What is our responsibility to be a mathematician?
  • What impact does mathematics have on our lives? On our communities?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Learning to Cram or Learning to Live?

One of the most powerful moments of the film “Most Likely To Succeed” (shared with me by my friend Abe Moore) was when a group of students, when faced with the question of whether they’d like to learn to apply to their lives or learn to ace the tests, they all choose acing tests.

Why? Because this was me in high school, too. I did not have patience for the teachers that tried to push their mumbo-jumbo philosophy of life on us, because we all knew that ultimately, it was only the tests that mattered anyway.

The tests. The gateways to colleges and careers. And if you hadn’t already started cramming for them, you were doomed, right?

So moving was that moment — especially paired with a parent explaining to the progressive teacher that she just “didn’t want any doors closed” to her child, it was almost enough to throw out the whole premise of the documentary, which is that we must change the way school works in order for kids to succeed in this ever-changing world.

Almost enough. But not quite. Because as I continued to watch, I became curious. If these kids aren’t taking the traditional courses and writing the traditional essays and memorizing for the traditional tests, are they getting into college? And if so, are they succeeding there?

It would seem they are. In my curiosity, I came across these High Tech High alumni stories, and I was impressed to hear the kinds of resilience and self-awareness these kids have clearly cultivated and are applying to their higher education journeys.

But even they conceded that in college, they still must face pressure and cramming and testing — but they reassure younger students that they will be ok and that it’s hard for everyone. Meanwhile, as the end of the movie points out, these students are still scoring well on the state standardized tests and getting into college, even without all the emphasis on test prep.

All this leads me to conclude that cramming doesn’t deserve the emphasis we’ve been giving it all these years. Wouldn’t it be better to first cultivate curiosity, determination, resilience, and sense of self, and then trust that our kids will be able to face the obstacles that arise?

I’ll close with one of the final remarks from a teacher in the documentary:

“There is a chance that they will come out without all of the extremelytangible skills and content that they would get at a normal high school…but if we’re going to believe that the content knowledge we’re trying to impart on them in a traditional school is not being retained, then I would argue, what is it again that they’re missing?…Here, they’re gonna leave with an extreme depth of some content and a whole bunch of other soft skills, they’re gonna have grit, they’re gonna be able to persevere through difficulty, they’re good at communicating with adults and their peers, they’re collaborative, they have empathy, all these things that are not things that disappear your junior year of high school. And so, when parents ask that, and they do ask that all the time, it’s really kind of a what do you want out of your student, who do you want them to be?”

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Fear vs. Passion

Taking part of the Innovator’s Mindset books study via #IMMOOC was one of the most refreshing professional development experiences I’ve had since leaving the classroom.

One of the reasons I chose to participate was because this feels like an important time for me professionally.

For one thing, I just finished the process of renewing my teaching license, which involved a lot of reflection.  For another, this spring marks 4 years since I’ve been away from the classroom, which is as long as I was actually in the classroom!  I used to think sharing this would hurt my credibility as an educator and as a blogger (“what does she know?”).

Now I know that it’s less about writing what I know and more about writing how I’m growing and changing. I thought Katie Martin summed it up beautifully in the last episode of the #IMMOOC:

“I shifted my thinking from I’m an authority to tell people something vs. This is my space to reflect & learn.”

I feel like this also captures the contrast between working and living from a place of fear vs. a place of passion. Sometimes we think it doesn’t matter if the results are the same (bottom-line thinking); the truth is that fear acts as a drain of our energy and opportunities, while passion feeds our energy and opportunities. While many of us readily accept the above statement, it’s tricky to detect the way it’s playing out in our own lives, particularly if we are, in fact, choosing fear.

My graphic below (last challenge of this #IMMOOC) is meant to capture some of the ways I found that contrast  of fear vs. passion throughout reading George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset and watching the #IMMOOC episodes. My hope is that it might serve as a tool for self-reflection. I would love to hear additional examples of the difference it makes to choose passion over fear!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Lessons from Homemade Valentines #TeacherMom

I have zero problem with shelling out $4 for a couple boxes of Valentines for my daughter’s classmates. But when she insisted on making her own for all the kids in her class back in Kindergarten, it absolutely mirrored this Hedge Humor comic:

via Hedge Humor “Valentine Issues”

By the time we get to that last panel here, we’re all ready raise the white flag, drop everything, and run to the store for that silly box of dog and cat valentines with sayings like, “You’re purr-fect.”

But whether it was because she was emulating her hero, Fancy Nancy, in this Valentine’s book someone gave to her, or whether her sheer stubborn will wouldn’t concede failure, she insisted on continuing. Not just then, but in the years since.

And I guess, now that she’s off and away with batch 3 of her annual homemade Valentine’s, I would say I’m actually glad she continued. First and foremost, because it has brought her joy — but also, because it has taught me some important lessons:

1) Stamina is not fun to cultivate — which is why it’s crucial to leverage via kids’ interest. Stamina in writing, stamina in reading, stamina in simply seeing a project through to its completion — we know these are all valuable skills for students and adults alike. But without student-led interest, these skills can be as painful to work on as pulling teeth. At times, we may need to work on stamina as a stand-alone goal (such as training students to be able to read for longer and longer periods of time).

However, we will make much greater progress in stamina when students’ interest is leading the way; not because they won’t experience moments of wanting to quit, but because we can help them use their own end goals to pave their way forward.

2) Student-led endeavors always yield unexpected opportunities for growth. I’ve been surprised to discover that my daughter spends the days before V-day polling her classmates to ascertain their valentine preferences. She has conversations with her teachers about class lists. And of course, she’s always finding new strategies to hone her craft and rein in the glitter. But my favorite discovery here is the fact that there is growth and learning that I don’t even know about — all because she is in the thralls of intrinsic enthusiasm.

3) Zone of proximal development matters even for Valentine-making. Sure, that first year, my daughter pictured herself whipping up valentines as masterfully as Nancy (wearing a chic ensemble to boot). But the zone of proximal development is a place of, well, development. Scaffolding, patience, and time are all needed as we work together with students toward greater and greater independence.

We can also help shape the environment to keep efforts centered in the ZPD, rather than straying into the zone of frustration. For valentine-making, this might include limiting materials or providing pre-cut hearts.

 

In short, though I have no idea where my daughter got this love of arts and crafts, supporting her homemade valentine efforts has reinforced to me the way learning works. I suppose these are lessons I will continue to find most readily when I let my kids lead the way for their learning at home.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto