Friday, December 14, 2012

So I got spit on. #vted #edchat

It was a tough day. From the minute I walked into the building, I was inundated with challenging discipline events.

To start, three boys were in the office because of some excessive rough-housing right after they got off the bus. All three were regulars to the office; each with a variety of needs and challenges. While I was working with them, I told yesterday's toughest case that he had to wait to speak with me. The parent of yet another very challenging student waited to speak with me, but ended up leaving.

This was all before 9:00 am.

I squeezed in a difficult conversation just before one of the three rough-housers from the morning had escalated and was out of control. Just before I got to him, he left the building and threw a rock at a staff member. I spent the next forty minutes alternating between assisting the Behavioral Interventionist in a variety of holds, taking notes, keeping my office from getting wrecked, and getting spit on. I got spit on a lot this morning.

There was a short lull after that. I spoke with yesterday's challenge, returned a phone call about pushing on a bus, filled in Rule 4500 paperwork (restraint report), and wrote a memo about the difficult conversation from earlier.

Then, another very challenging student lost his #*%^. He calmed down with some help, but at noon, went out to recess. He resisted all calm efforts to come inside like he was supposed to. Fortunately, raising my voice was all I needed to do - no holds or escorts needed.

By 1:00 things seemed to be getting better. With only 7 of 17 sixth graders in school (the rest on a field trip), I scrapped my social studies lesson and let the students play on computers. Then, I made the big mistake of checking my email.

My wife and the commissioner of education both sent me news of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Twenty children and six school staff were killed in Connecticut.

Suddenly, my incredible tough day seemed pretty easy. Everyone of my students and staff went home today. I hugged my own children tonight and tucked them in to bed.

So I got spit on.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Top Ten Benefits to Being A Teaching Principal #edchat #vted

During the summer, I described my plans to become a teaching principal here, here, here, and here. Back in July, I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I knew teaching again would be a good thing.

Boy, was I right.

Even though the principalship is an extraordinarily busy job, I love spending time each day with the sixth graders. It helps, of course, that they are a great group of kids who are willing to try out new ideas and usually laugh at my bad jokes.



Teaching this year has, so far, come with some benefits other than my spending time with students. Here is my top ten list of benefits to being a teaching principal:

10. Productive time with children.

9. I get to grade papers (no, really).

8. Gets me out of the office.

7. I get first hand knowledge/frustration with outdated report card system. (I've got to talk to the administrations about this).

6. Frees up a teacher for that hour so she can help some kids learn to read.

5. Forces me to practice what I preach (tech infused, SBG*, student choice, relevant, meaningful, etc).

4. It is not all about student discipline (most days).

3. I get to know just how good some paraprofessionals can be.

2. I am seen as more than just "administration."

And, the number one benefit to being a teaching principal...

1. I love to teach!

 

So, there you have it. The top ten benefits to being a teaching principal.

 

P.S. I could not find attribution for the image of the teacher at the top. However, I thought a few points to consider about that image were in order. First, as a teacher, I don't have a desk; I use someone else's classroom. Second, I use Standards Based Grading (*SBG), not letter grades, except on the report card itself, but that is another story. Third, I have five fingers on each hand. Fourth, I have not received an apple from any students this year. Fifth, I have a nose and, often, the same blank stare. Finally, I just recently bought a shirt the same purple, but mine is called French Lilac.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Technology Gardening #leadershipday12 #summerblog12

Leadership Day from Scott McLeod holds a special place in my blogging heart. It was Leadership Day 2009 when I posted to this, or any, blog for the first time. I was working on becoming a connected leader. I had opened a twitter account, @fliegs, a few month earlier, and I was reading education blogs (my blog bundle). Starting my own blog was the next step.

Over the next few years I blogged about the goings on at school, my opinion an all sorts of education topics, and summaries of education books. I wrote for Leadership Day 2010, but missed it last year.

So, here I am in August 2012 and the question is: What should a principal do to increase the amount of technology integration in school?

A principal needs to nurture the integration of technology. Nurturing means to provide the right environment for technology integration to grow. Teachers need to feel comfortable taking risks, the students need access to decent (or, dare I say, the best) equipment, the network needs to be robust, and the internet needs to be fast and stable. In other words, we need to prepare the soil.

Once things start to grow, we need to tend to them carefully. Of course tomatoes need different care than potatoes; lettuce is handled very differently than peas; squash and onions need totally different amounts of fertilizer (says my wife). Now, if I were far more ambitious (and did not have a board meeting earlier tonight), I would take this analogy way too far by describing what kind of adult learner compares to each of the aforementioned vegetables. Instead, I will point out that some teachers need only play around with technology to learn it well. Others want some direct instruction then off they go. Still others need step-by-step handholding until they are comfortable. Principals need to differentiate the professional training just like a gardener differentiates the care of the plants.

It is at this point that my garden analogy totally falls apart. Principals need to choose the right moment to shift from nurturing to expecting. While the peas on the faculty have already been integrating tech, often for years, the beets finished some PD and got started. On the other hand carrots take a long time to germinate and then grow (not sure how carrots play into this, told you the analogy fell apart). Anyway, two-thirds or more of the teachers are integrating technology. One way to get some of the remaining third growing, I mean using tech, is for the principal to set the expectation. Sometimes we have to quit nurturing and start expecting. Try telling a row of corn that you expect it to grow without fertilizer this year - this analogy is busted.

Another technique that principals often use to encourage technology integration is to model its use. I and many other principals integrate technology into our practice daily. We demonstrate classroom integration ideas into faculty meetings. I have been trying to convince my wife that the best way to get peaches to grow in Vermont is for her to show the peach trees how to grow here. I'm not yet sure that modeling is going to work in this case (in addition, I'm not yet sure that my wife has ever listened to a single word of my gardening advice).

In all good gardens, harvesting the fruits of our labors is the best part. Watching the cucumbers working on a dynamic lesson using all sorts of innovative technology designed by their teachers is as good as serving a salad of only locally grown students. Or something like that.



P.S. No vegetables were harmed in the writing of this blog.

P.P.S. Future blog post: how to avoid getting blight


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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Time to Put My Money Where My Standards Are #Summerblog12 #SBG

#9 in the Summer 2012 Blogging Challenge, #Summerblog12

Traditional Gradebook


So, I've mentioned that I will be teaching sixth grade social studies this coming school year (Read about it here, here, and here). While I am still preparing to unveil the topics and structure of the class, I am ready to talk briefly about grading.




In the past, I mean the distant past, when I last taught seventh grade social studies, I used a pretty traditional point system for grading. Every assignment was worth points, and students could earn points by getting work in on time, by completing it at all, by following a scoring guide or rubric. Wrapped up in all this was the idea that the grade could show both learning and all sorts of habits (completion, participation, effort, etc.) While I made a big deal about everyone starting off with 100% to encourage a positive start, I took points off for late papers and gave zeros for missed assingments. I rationalized that I gave the students every opportunity to get a good grade.




Now, I've got to practice what I've been preaching since I've left the classroom (I wrote about grading here and here). First to go, the zero. Gone. Not going to give one. Next out is points for every assignment.




Here's how it will work, a new system that I just created. I will call it Standards Based Grading (Full disclosure: I did not create this at all). For this year, I will be using the Vermont Grade Expectations for 5/6 Social Studies and the Common Core State Standards for Reading in Social Studies. I will identify one or more of the standards for every assignment. Then, the PowerTeacher gradebook will allow me to assign a score for each standard used in that assignment. I will report much more about PowerTeacher grade book after I've used it for a while.




Some questions that I still have to answer.

  1. Should the term grade be based on an average of standards, the last assessment of that standard or the last three?
  2. What do I do about missing work (more about a school wide initiative later)?
  3. How will I account for compliance reporting (homework, participation, etc.)?
  4. What are the other pitfalls?
So, I plan to go whole hog into Standards Based Grading; putting my money where my mouth is.






Saturday, July 28, 2012

EdCamp Vermont Reflections #SummerBlog12 #VtEd

#8 in the Summer 2012 Blogging Challenge, #Summerblog12

 

In April, 2012, I led the Vermont ASCD's first effort at an "unconference." EdCamp Vermont had its roots in another place and another time.

In the fall of 2010, I was driving to some EdCamp with Dan Callahan, when he brought up the idea of EdCamp Boston. He had come up with a date and a venue with some other folks and was ready to add to the organizing committee. I jumped at the chance. Through the winter, I did my part working with an amazing committee to put together the first EdCamp Boston in April 2011.

Shortly before EdCamp Boston, I accepted the position as principal of Wolcott Elementary School in Vermont. I was thrilled to have the position in place before EdCamp. When I told Dan that I got the job and would be moving to Vermont, the first thing he said was, "When is EdCamp Vermont?" I laughed him off figuring that in my first year in a new state there was no way I'd be able to organize an EdCamp.

As I settled into my new house and job, I was asked to join the newly reconstituted board of the Vermont ASCD. The new president, Ned Kirsch, had been a twitter contact for a while. I accepted.

 

At one of the first meetings, I mentioned EdCamp. Ned and the board were intrigued, and we decided to make Vermont's first EdCamp part of the VTASCD revival. I was thrilled. Organizing an EdCamp as part of an existing organization is super easy. We didn't have to set up a bank account or search for sponsors. We kept our plans small. You see, Vermont is very rural and spread out.

 

So, on a Saturday morning wedged between the vacation weeks of various parts of the state, about 40 educators showed up for a classic-style EdCamp. We had participants from all over the state, from as far as Boston, and even over the border from Canada. Even with a small crowd, we filled the session board and even added a fourth room. As usual with an EdCamp, the conversations were wonderful.

 

Now that we've held one EdCamp, VTASCD will surely hold another. Stay tuned for more information.

 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Tools I Use #Summerblog12

#7 in the Summer 2012 Blogging Challenge, #Summerblog12





Every once in a while, I read a post from my PLN about what tools they use to do their work. Recently, Dan Callahan did just that.

So, my work consists of principaling, blogging, and reading. For almost everything, I use my iPad 3. I think it might be the best computer I have ever owned. I primarily use the following software: Blogsy, Echofon for twitter, Reeder for rss feeds, Kindle for reading, Toodledoo for todos, Evernote for note taking and storage, and Notability for handwriting notes and marking up PDFs. I tie everything together mostly with Dropbox. In fact, one of the main ways that I have been able to rely on my iPad is that most of my primary software tools connect with either the cloud or a desktop version. With a few small exceptions, all my stuff is available on any platform.



Speaking of platform, I do use a three other tools besides the iPad. At home, I have a 2009, 15" MacBookPro. Still works great because I loaded it with extra ram when I bought it. Since I started using an iPad, I rarely pick up the MBP; in one fell swoop it became way too heavy.

At school, instead of having the district buy me a new laptop when I started, I decided to go big with a 27" iMac. This has been one of the best tech decisions I've made. The giant screen makes working with data a breeze. It's like having two monitors, but way cooler looking. The full computer is still necessary for intensive work, more complex spreadsheets, and a few websites here and there.

To round out my tool collection, I carry an iPhone 3G that works great on wifi. I only get cell coverage in certain places here in rural Vermont, but I still find the iPhone useful.

That's it for tools. I'll write more about how I use the iPad as a principal and how I plan to use it as a classroom teacher in a future blog post.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ancient Egypt to Medieval Florence in 80 Days #Summerblog12

#6 in the Summer 2012 Blogging Challenge, #Summerblog12




A vital part of riding a bicycle is knowing to where you are going. It stands to reason, then, that teaching (see this post for more info on my teaching) will be easier if I know the curriculum (duh!).

Over the past four years, my supervisory union has convened curriculum committees for literacy, math, science, art, music, and physical education. Notice that social studies is not on that list. That is until this spring. Since the committee is just getting started (more on that later), there is no district/SU Social Studies curriculum. Fortunately, one of the teachers in my building was able to find this chart for sixth grade social studies. Written years ago, this outline of the curriculum has only been loosely followed in recent years.

N.b. The standards referred to in the chart are from the Vermont History and Social Sciences GEs (Grade Expectations): Grades 5 – 6.

Please don't get me wrong, I like archaeology, Ancient Egypt, Greece & Rome, and the Middle Ages. The thing is, I'm not sure that these topics are the most important to teach my sixth graders. This is especially true when I think about how little understanding of the world the students have. Will studying early humans and ancient Egyptians really help the children of Wolcott as they prepare to go out in the world?

On the other hand, if I look at the topics only as vehicles to get the students to the enduring understandings and essential questions (or, in my case, the Grade Expectations), it doesn't really matter what topics I choose.

On the other, other hand, kids ought to learn about some of this stuff someday. If not now when? (Maybe high school?) There are really cool things to learn about in each of the topics. There are even some great connections to modern life, especially Greece, Rome, and Middle Ages (not so much with ancient Egypt, though).

So, I am still left with the question: What to teach?

Feel free to offer suggestions. I have an idea brewing that I will present in here soon.

 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

10 Top Ideas for Social Studies from the Kids #Summerblog12



#5 in the Summer 2012 Blogging Challenge, #Summerblog12





In a previous post, I mentioned that I would be teaching sixth grade social studies next year. Because we are in the midst of writing district social studies curriculum and there was little guidance in the past, the choice of topics is wide open. Of course, I expect to use the History and Social Sciences GEs (Grade Expectations): Grades 5 – 6, but there is far too much in this to do well in two years, let alone one year. The GEs are created in the style of thematic and understanding/doing standards. There is almost nothing in the GEs that suggests what specific topics should be taught, only specific social studies skills, processes, and connections. I like that style of standards much more than the Massachusetts standards that are only about content. As much as I might like the Vermont GEs, they don't tell me what to teach (or do they? More on this in the near future.)

Since I was encouraged by the fifth grade social studies and 5/6 Language Arts teacher to take a fresh look at what we teach (as long as she has time to gather literature to connect with the social studies), I am taking that fresh look. Since I have been preaching the merits of letting students have choices as a form of autonomy (see my post about Drive), I realized that I better put my money where my mouth is. I decided to go to the kids to see what they want to study in sixth grade.

A few days before the end of the school year, I went to speak with the fifth grade (remember at my small school that the fifth grade is a single class) about their sixth grade social studies curriculum. I asked them a simple question, designed to get a simple response. After a moment to think about what interested them, here are the answers I got with my comments in parentheses:

  • Rome (been part of sixth grade recently)

  • Middle Ages (been part of sixth grade recently)

  • Dark Ages (been part of sixth grade recently)

  • Native Americans (covered somewhat in fourth and fifth grades)

  • Greek mythology (been part of sixth grade recently)

  • The Pilgrims (covered in fifth grade)

  • African Americans (hmmm... Could be interesting)

  • 1980's (I resisted the urge to suspend the kid who thinks my childhood is as historical as the Dark Ages)

  • WWI

  • WWII (Wars are always neat to study)

Well, only some of what the kids mentioned is stuff that I like to teach (does that even matter?). How did the kids' interests line up with the old Wolcott Elementary School 6th Grade Social Studies Map? Hmmm...




What to teach? I needed to take a look at what the map called for and what the retiring teacher had been teaching. Stay tuned for more.

 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Knowledge, Hard Work, or Attitude #Summerblog12

#4 in the Summer 2012 Blogging Challenge, #Summerblog12

 

On a short visit in Carol's class this past April, I got to participate in an interesting assignment and discussion about knowledge, hard work and attitude.

Carol told her class that she had just read the book, Toilets, Bricks, Fish Hooks, and PRIDE The Peak Performance Toolbox EXPOSED, by Brian Cain. Without explaining too much more, Carol told the class about the really cool thing that she discovered in the book. Although, it is hard to see in this photograph, Carol wrote on the board the following from the book:

"If: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ is represented as: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Then:

K+N+O+W+L+E+D+G+E = 96%

11+14+16+23+12+5+4+7+5

and:

H+A+R+D W+O+R+K = 98%

8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11

and:

A+T+T+I+T+U+D+E = 100%

1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5

After explaining how the system worked (you know, letters standing for numbers and all that), Carol asked the students to open their journals and write an answer to the question of which is most important to success: knowledge, hard work, or attitude. Being the type of educators who believe that kids should see us write, Carol, the paraprofessional in the room, and I all wrote our response to the prompt. Once the students shared their writing, Carol read hers and then asked the para and me if we wanted to read. We both did. Here is my first, unedited, draft.

While Knowledge, Hard work, and Attitude are all important ingredients to success in all endeavors, attitude is the most important. Without a good attitude, people see right through your efforts. A good attitude is the hardest of the three to teach. We have many ways to gain knowledge. Hard work can be practiced. Attitude comes only from within and as such cannot be easily "given" to someone else. In fact, when I hire, attitude is the most important factor I look for in a candidate.

Looking at my writing months after the fact, it's clear that this was a journal-write, first draft. The good news is that I still like my thinking from that April day.

 

 

*Carol is the same pseudonym I used in this post and this one.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Just like riding a bicycle, right? #Summerblog12

#3 in the Summer 2012 Blogging Challenge (two posts each week)

Riding a bike
Do I get training wheels?
They say that once you learn something well, it is like riding a bicycle: you can get back on anytime and have no real trouble. In my experience, this seems to be true so far in life. I go years between bike rides with no problem. I return to the mountains and hike 10 mile and 2500' as if I did it last week.

This fall I will test out this theory in a big, scary way. I will return to classroom for the first time sine June 2003! I am not leaving the principalship, I am merely (!) adding teaching to my duties. I am going to teach 6th Grade Social Studies at Wolcott Elementary School. Doing this will free up the 5/6 LA/SS teacher to do some intense intervention work with struggling readers, and it will let me be a teaching principal.

The way I figure it, teaching is like riding a bicycle; I should have no problem getting back in the classroom after nine years. I learned tons in my eight years teaching. Since then, I have learned tons more about teaching and education in general. I know that kids need engaging curriculum, choices to help motivate, high expectations, authentic assessments to show what they a really learning, great options for sharing their work, true standards-based grading, and a technology infused experience since it really is the 21st Century.

Of course, in 2003, Powerpoint was exciting classroom technology. I used Microsoft Publisher, too. I even made my own page of links so that the students wouldn't have to spend time searching irrelevant sites (other lessons covered a little of how to judge sites).

In 2003, I think that I'd heard of standards-based grading. I gave zeros, though. I figured that if the kids wanted to, they would do the work. It was their responsibility to be "enrolled" as Ben Zander would say. I taught, they learned. Or did they?

Back then, I had high expectations, for most kids. Were my goals high enough for all kids? Did I even set reasonable expectations for kids? Oy.

I'd planned on posting student work to my website (I really did have one), but district policy forbade any interaction of student and Internet other than searching. Oh.

So, as I prepare my class to begin in the fall, I will have no problem right? I will just get back on the bicycle of teaching and ride away, right?

After all, teaching is just like riding a bicycle, right?

Right?





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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some People Will Do Anything for an iPad #summerblog12

I had a great experience earlier this school year. You see, Carol*, a veteran teacher who not too long ago swore off technology but had recently joined the district Tech Committee, agreed to go to a state edtech conference, in early November, with a more tech savvy colleague who had an iPad.

They had a great experience and returned to school jazzed about the possibilities. The day after the conference, November 7, Carol told me how cool some of the iPad apps were. I talked with her for a few minutes and added her to my mental list for iPads in the far future.


Little did I know that Carol had a plan, and I didn't stand a chance.

On November 8, Carol came to see me first thing in the morning. You see, she wanted to forgive me for being slow about getting her an iPad. For some reason, I apologized.

A couple of days later, Crol saw me in the morning and told me that she Dreams About Performance Indicators. What was she talking about? When she wrote it out for me, she underlined the first letters as I have done here and told me to look at it backwards. I-P-A-D. Oh, I see.



On the morning of November 14th, Carol left me this note...

I think that she may have enlisted the help of the parents! Maybe I'll move her a little higher on that mental list for iPads in the future.

Two days later, I experienced the biggest regret of this fantastic first year at Wolcott Elementary School. Carol came to see mere morning. I was ready for anything, I thought. I told that she was on the list to get an iPad when I bought some. Instead of saying thank you and going back to class, Carol broke into a cheer -- like a high school cheerleader, yes that kind of cheer -- all about how great it would be to have an iPad. I didn't record it or even get her to write down the words for me; I will regret that omission forever.

The next day Carol came to me with a story about how having B+ blood really meant that she should have an iPad. Not sure what that meant, but I got the point.

On November 18, Carol appealed to my emotions by telling me that buying her an iPad would be a humanitarian effort because it help to stimulate the economy. By this point, I'd made up my mind that I would have to order an iPad soon.


The final straw that broke my back came on November 22. Carol brought me a dollar bill with this letter attached. It is not a bribe. If you can't read the note, she tells me to buy a lottery ticket and use the winnings to buy her and iPad. Fortunately, she trusted me to use the remaining winnings for the good of the school.

To make it easy for me and to sweeten the deal, Carol also handed me an ad from a tech store with the little gem seen below.

 

 

 

 

 

I was left with more questions than answers at this point. What is a guy supposed to do? How can one lowly principal resist the intense efforts of a very determined teacher? How fast could I get an iPad on Carol's desk? Would she prefer black or white?

So, you can probably guess what happened next. I called the tech guy and asked him to order an iPad for Carol. To my great surprise, he told me he had an extra one in his office. I would merely have to replace it when I ordered more in the future. I drove over to central office and picked up the iPad for Carol. on the Friday of Thanksgiving week, I came into the empty school and left the brand new iPad on Carol's desk.

To say she was happy would be the understatement of the year. I went to a meeting Monday morning so I missed her skipping down the hall singing.

 

Later that week, Kim* said to me, "If I do a cheer for you, do I get an iPad?" Uh-oh.

 

 

N.b. Before the teachers left for the summer, Kim and all the rest, got iPads to use in preparation for a wider deployment this fall.

 

 

*Carol and Kim are the same pseudonyms I used in this post.

 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

#Summerblog12 Another Blogging Challenge

Here we go again; another blogging challenge. This time Bill Carozza gets credit for getting us started,

"I have a goal beginning July 1…two blog posts a week. Anyone up for that challenge?"



In related news, @Principalj is right, I have thrown her and @mmiller7571 under the bus for other blogging challenges. In some crazy way, it is my way of thanking them for giving me so many good ideas and motivation during the last few years. Here is how @principalj started her challenge:

Included for no good reason.


2012 Summer Blogging Challenge

 

Bill Carozza (@wcarozza) over at "Principal Reflections" snuck in a blog challenge in his post "5 Reasons Educators Should Blog." Then my twitter friend @fliegs threw @mmiller7571 and I under the bus in a tweet to get us in on the challenge (now that I think about it, I think he has done this to us every year!) I have a hard time saying no to anything so I'm in (even if it means that this first post is this simple--it is also my first attempt at using the blogger app on my iPad, so I have no idea what it will look like and have found I can't add any links into my post.)
 

Now I'm off to start thinking of my next blog post...
So who wants to join us? Only 2 posts a week, come on we can all commit to at least 2.
 

So, after very little blogging since early February, I am back. I will start now, instead of waiting until July 1. I've got several topics and started posts waiting to be written. Check back soon.

Thanks.

 

P.S. The image has nothing to do with the post. I include only because my daughter made the sign last week for her first sleepover at our house.




 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

1 (or 39) Top Idea(s) for Educators from Mindset by Carol Dweck


Of the many books that I have read in the last year, Mindset by Carol Dweck has caused me to think and question my long held beliefs more than most. According to Dweck, our intelligence and our basic frame of mind can change. We can have either the fixed or growth mindsets.
  • You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They're powerful beliefs, but they're just something in your mind, and you can change your mind. Location 308
N.B. I read the kindle edition before kindle included page numbers, so I have included the kindle location number. While reading, I highlighted passages and made some notes. The passages in italics and the main bullet points are direct quotes from the book. The sub-bullets without italics are my thoughts. Those notes proceeded by "Note:" I wrote while reading the book.

The two mindsets will affect a person's approach to any task. A person with the fixed mindset believes that he has a set amount of skill or intelligence or aptitude. The fixed mindset person is just good at stuff and will never get better or worse.
  • From the point of view of the fixed mindset, effort is only for people with deficiencies. Location 737
People with a fixed mindset will quit easily; they give up because there is no use in struggling or giving extra effort. Many fixed mindset people will not even attempt challenging tasks; that way they can't fail.

The growth mindset on the other hand is filled with possibility. People witht the growth mindset believe that through hard work they can get smarter, better, stronger. Often the effort is the reward for the growth minded. Failure is a sign of just needed to try again only harder. Growth minded people will not give up very easily.
  • Not only weren't they discouraged by failure, they didn't even think they were failing. They thought they were learning. Location 110
  • Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions. Location 1650
  • Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They're informative. They're a wake-up call. Location 1671
  • You have to work hardest for the things you love most. Location 758
  • Actually, sometimes you plunge into something because you're not good at it. Location 919
    • In 2011, as part of the EdCamp Boston planning team, I took on the task of creating the logo (from the generic EdCamp logo) when our teen artist fell through. I am not much of an artist and have only a limited skill set in computer graphics. Well, after much trial and error, I came up with a decent looking graphic using only free tools on the iPad. With that success behind me, I once again took on the role of graphic artist with EdCamp Vermont.
  • In the growth mindset, you don't always need confidence. Location 917
Dweck explains that even the fixed mindset is not truly fixed - it can be broken.
  • People can also have different mindsets in different areas. Location 825
  • It's also important to realize that even if people have a fixed mindset, they're not always in that mindset. In fact, in many of our studies, we put people into a growth mindset. We tell them that an ability can be learned and that the task will give them a chance to do that. Or we have them read a scientific article that teaches them the growth mindset. The article describes people who did not have natural ability, but who developed exceptional skills. These experiences make our research participants into growth-minded thinkers, at least for the moment—and they act like growth-minded thinkers, too. Location 816
So what? What does all this talk of mindsets have to do with modern education? The mindsets cut right to the core of why we teach (hopefully). Educators must truly believe that EVERY child can be successful through the right combination of hard work and good instruction. The number 1 Top Idea for Educators from this book is:
  • Believing talents can be developed allows people to fulfill their potential. Location 840
We are all about fulfilling potential - our students', our school's, our community's and our own potential.

Now that I have uncovered the 1 Top Idea of the fixed and growth mindsets, I want to share more of this powerful book. I've split up a slew of pithy quotes into categories that may be most relevant to educators.

Students
  • I think by now we're getting the idea that character grows out of mindset. Location 1564
    • So, by helping students with their mindset, we might be making progress on part of the hidden curriculum. Great.
  • Praising children's intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance. Location 2839
    • WOW! This flies in the face of so much that I thought I knew.
  • We can praise them as much as we want for the growth-oriented process—what they accomplished through practice, study, persistence, and good strategies. And we can ask them about their work in a way that admires and appreciates their efforts and choices. Location 2874
    • Note: Can we make this part of the way teachers talk to students? Should we have a parent session about this?
    • From this time on, I must praise hard work, etc. whenever possible.
  • So what should we say when children complete a task—say, math problems—quickly and perfectly? Should we deny them the praise they have earned? Yes. When this happens, I say, "Whoops. I guess that was too easy. I apologize for wasting your time. Let's do something you can really learn from!" Location 2894
    • Note: Wow! Imagine that in school.

Not trying
  • Many adolescents mobilize their resources, not for learning, but to protect their egos. And one of the main ways they do this (aside from providing vivid portraits of their teachers) is by not trying. Location 991
  • This low-effort syndrome is often seen as a way that adolescents assert their independence from adults, but it is also a way that students with the fixed mindset protect themselves. Location 996
  • John Holt, the great educator, says that these are the games all human beings play when others are sitting in judgment of them. "The worst student we had, the worst I have ever encountered, was in his life outside the classroom as mature, intelligent, and interesting a person as anyone at the school. What went wrong? . . . Somewhere along the line, his intelligence became disconnected from his schooling." Location 998
  • teaching them this mindset unleashed their effort. Location 1004
    • Note: Should we teach the growth mindset early and often and explicitly in school?

Bullying
  • There's a big dose of fixed-mindset thinking in the bullies: Some people are superior and some are inferior. Location 2700
    • So, will teaching students to be growth minded reduce bullying?
  • But some schools have created a dramatic reduction in bullying by fighting the atmosphere of judgment and creating one of collaboration and self-improvement. Location 2753
  • First, while enforcing consistent discipline, he doesn't judge the bully as a person. No criticism is directed at traits. Instead, he makes them feel liked and welcome at school every day. Then he praises every step in the right direction. But again, he does not praise the person; he praises their effort. Location 2763
    • The combination of building the relationship and praising the positive efforts sounds like a powerful way to approach the "frequent flyers" - the kids with the worst discipline records.

Teaching
  • Jaime Escalante (of Stand and Deliver fame) taught these inner-city Hispanic students college-level calculus. With his growth mindset, he asked "How can I teach them?" not "Can I teach them?" and "How will they learn best?" not "Can they learn?" Location 1090
    • Note: We've got to get every teacher thinking like this about all the kids.
  • This means there's a lot of intelligence out there being wasted by underestimating students' potential to develop. Location 1097
  • What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning. Location 1122
  • Remember, test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don't tell you where a student could end up. Location 1127
  • But some teachers preached and practiced a growth mindset. They focused on the idea that all children could develop their skills, and in their classrooms a weird thing happened. It didn't matter whether students started the year in the high- or the low-ability group. Both groups ended the year way up high. It's a powerful experience to see these findings. The group differences had simply disappeared under the guidance of teachers who taught for improvement, for these teachers had found a way to reach their "low-ability" students. Location 1134
  • In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from. Location 1214

Schools
  • Don't judge. Teach. It's a learning process. Location 3021
  • Simply raising standards in our schools, without giving students the means of reaching them, is a recipe for disaster. Location 3150
  • The fixed mindset, plus stereotyping, plus women's trust in people's assessments: I think we can begin to understand why there's a gender gap in math and science. Location 1340
  • The great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning. Location 3158

Leadership
  • they are constantly trying to improve. They surround themselves with the most able people they can find, they look squarely at their own mistakes and deficiencies, and they ask frankly what skills they and the company will need in the future. Location 1853
  • "If we're managing good people who are clearly eating themselves up over an error, our job is to help them through it." (Charlie, former boss of Jack Welch, quoted by Welch, quoted by Dweck) Location 2145
  • leadership is about growth and passion, not about brilliance. Location 2229
    • Maybe I do have a chance to be a decent leader.
  • Herodotus, writing in the fifth century B.C., reported that the ancient Persians used a version of Sloan's techniques to prevent groupthink. Whenever a group reached a decision while sober, they later reconsidered it while intoxicated. Location 2278
    • I'm not advocating, merely offering up the wisdom of the ancients.
  • Create an organization that prizes the development of ability—and watch the leaders emerge. Location 2304


Becoming Growth Minded
  • "You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better." Location 3378
    • Note: Wisdom from Wooden...(as quoted by Dweck)
  • The critical thing is to make a concrete, growth-oriented plan, and to stick to it. Location 3742

So, read the book and then make your plan. You can grow no matter how good you think you are.


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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Misstep Two-Step (#14inFeb #5)




I recently included the following in the Monday Memo for the staff at my school. In a future blog post, I will discuss how the informal principal survey at staff are completing fits into this picture. For now, suffice it to say that I have recently been made aware of some of my own missteps.

One of the toughest aspects of a small group of adults working together is how we deal with our inevitable missteps. Over time, good friends are able to say to one another something like, 'Hey, you messed up. Fix it.' Longtime co-workers often reach this stage without any planning or structure. What about other folks? What do we do when someone new to the community or someone who doesn't have the close relationships messes up? Do we have a structure in place for how to approach the person who missteps?

It is often easier to ignore the mistake, to 'sweep it under the rug,' to avoid confrontation and accept the unliked behavior. It's almost always scary to approach someone to discuss their actions, and sometimes the impact of the misstep is minor enough that, if ignored, the situation will right itself.
In more cases, ignoring the misstep leads to bigger problems quickly. People begin to resent, dislike, fear, or worse the person who missteps. The uncorrected/unchallenged missteps can lead to a difficult place to work or, more ominously, a place where kids can't learn.

It was clear from day one that the staff here cares tremendously for the children, the school, and each other. However, I know that some staff perceive missteps and do nothing about them. I know that other staff confront the person who missteps. I urge you all to screw up enough courage (or whatever emotion is needed) and confront the misstepper (hopefully in non-confrontational ways).

I should be clear at this point - the missteps that I have been thinking and writing about are mine. I make some mistakes. Sometimes, I recognize the problem quickly and can fix it. More often than not, without direct feedback, I do not realize there is a problem, and I do not fix it. During the in-service week, I asked you all to keep me honest - tell me when I misstep so that I can fix the problem. Some of you have come to me to tell me about my missteps. Most of you have not.

So, again, I ask that you challenge my missteps. For the good of the school, for the benefit of the students, for your own well being and mine, come speak to me when you have something on your mind.


So, what do you when you misstep? Is there a process in place among the staff at your school to deal with the inevitable? Are staff members comfortable coming to the principal or to each other to talk these things out?

image from Flickr user Andy.d CC

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