Sunday, 23 November 2014

Is Growth Mindset a Sliding Spectrum? - a response

I want to swim in the deep, murky waters of nuance when it comes to growth mindset. Maybe I need some lessons.
 Royan Lee

This is how Royan Le finishes off his article on Growth Mindset.  It is a good place to finish a post on how we develop our own growth mindset.  This is something I am thinking about this year.  Our board has made this an important initiative this year for all of us and I know many school boards conducted studies and research on this last year.

I think as teachers, we get into this profession because we believe in having a growth mindset.  I think it is a great focus for our school board.  I really like how Lee used the 'How to Learn Math' series by Jo Boaler in his post.  He is following the series and I am going to encourage our teachers to do the same thing.

This will be a good series for me too - I actually said in a staff meeting 'I never could teach math' good start!

For us, the challenge of growth mindset will be transferring this to our students and parents.  I know I have lots to learn about all of this, but my first thought is that we need to make sure our students believe in themselves.  They need to know that they can make a fundamental change in their living circumstances.

One of my goals this year will be to have a growth mindset for myself, the staff, students and our parent community.  Where can we growth, where can we move to.

We will try all sorts of projects to see if we can encourage a growth mindset - right now we are trying to redevelop our entire schoolyard.  It is a bit of a crazy idea, but it is capturing the imagination of our kids and teachers.  If you push hard enough, what can you achieve?

It doesn't matter if we win this competition - although we would love your vote!  What matters is that we are trying new things to see what is possible, to see how we can grow and make a difference. Actually, we are doing OK, we are in 6th place nationally right now and are poised to enter the semi finals next week.

Still, this will be a learning journey - I totally agree with Lee - I will need lots of lessons!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What are some areas of teaching and learning that you can lead in your school? #SAVMP Blog Post

Our first school mural of the year along with all our artists! 

The November question is What are some areas of teaching and learning that you can lead in your school?

Always good questions come from SAVMP!  What can I lead in my school?

That is a bit difficult to answer.  When you are new in a school I think the question becomes - what teaching and learning can I pick up from the staff.  At this point, this is a much more interesting question for me to reflect on.

What can I say so far?

  • our staff connects with its community - parents are in all the time to meet with teachers and discuss concerns - face to face beats the phone every time.
  • people here are all about empowerment.  This is a poor community, many parents speak a language other than French and English at home.  Our teachers challenge our students and they have very high expectations - this is so visible to me!  Our students rise to these expectations and they perform better as they get older on our standardized testing.
  • our children love our school.  There is a great deal of affection amongst the students and parents for our school.  This is, I believe, is because our staff provide a nurturing environment, a place where children can thrive and grow.
  • our staff are willing to experiment - we are introducing e-portfolios, new math and language on-line programs, a makerspace, a national campaign to transform our asphalt yard - the staff accept and embrace all of this and much much more.  They are for the kids and are willing to try new things all the time.
  • there is a strong spiritual sense about the school.  We celebrate together and we pray together.  Today, I witnessed one of the most moving Remembrance Day ceremonies I have ever seen.  The kids all know how important these moments are and treat these ceremonies with great respect.
People come to our school and they say it has a special spirit.  I am the newest member of the staff and I agree with them.  There is a special spirit here, it makes you want to do your best and contribute what you can to make the community even stronger.

What areas of teaching and learning can I lead?  Right now I can lead best by following the staff and learning the culture of our school.  I can learn to become part of a vital and caring culture.

Our junior students at the war memorial in Ottawa - a special day

Sunday, 9 November 2014

SAVMP Year Two - “What are some ways you connect with your school community?”

It is good to be writing again in the SAVMP community. Thanks Amber for giving us our first prompt. “What are some ways you connect with your school community?”

I have just come back from a great Ontario conference - ECOO 2014 in Niagara Falls.  The conference was wonderful and I learned a great deal.  I think what was most important however was connecting to the learning community that I have developed through working on the organization of the conference.  I also connected with people I follow on Twitter and again I was touched by the power of connecting to others.

At ECOO and earlier at the GAFE Summit here in Ottawa, I had the chance to listen to keynotes by George Couros.  I really like George - he knows lots of cool stuff and gives excellent talks.  After listening to him a bunch of times over the past month, my main take away from his talks is the importance of connecting to others.  He has this wonderful video where a retiring teacher is celebrated by generations of students.  It is really touching, no one talks about how many apps they learned from this teacher or even the way she taught.  They all talked about how she had touched their lives in unique ways.  One woman told a story  about singing a song in her class when she was a child,  her teacher loved it so much she encouraged her to visit the other classes in the school to share her wonderful song - what a great story!  Real connections remain strong always.

Connecting to your school community can be done through social media, but that is such a small part of the story.  I think I am known for being a strong proponent of digital forms of communication and I certainly spend enough time blogging, tweeting and googling.

But, now I am in a new school community and I am thinking every day on how I can connect to this wonderful community.  While all the forms of social media are important, I know that what is most important.

It is most important to get to know everyone in our community - the staff, the students, the parents and the wider community.  I know I am doing my best work when I am simply being with other people, learning their names and learning more about their families and their lives.

A very wise principal once said that every day he started out by talking to each staff member in his building.  That is how he started his day.  Whatever else happened for the rest of the day, everyone would know that they had a moment to connect to another person.

This will be my centering question for this week.  I have been away for four days and I really need to get back into the school and really reconnect.  What will be the quality of my connections with people in the coming week?  Will I make it a priority to reconnect and listen to people?  Will I put aside the mounds of paperwork that has accumulated during my absence and make it my priority just to be with all these great people?

These are my questions to myself this week.  Focus on the person, focus on the building of relationships - everything follows from that.

Have a great week everyone!