Are We Hindering or Developing Resiliency?

Persistence, Resilience, and Grit…Oh My!

These words are talked about in education.  We continue to teach our students the importance of not giving up. Are you hearing these words in your head?

  • Keep going. You got this.  
  • Don’t let one hard thing stop you.  
  • It’s okay to fail, just try something else.
  • When things get hard, you can’t just stop and give up.
Guilty.  I have said these to my daughter in hopes of making her understand persistence and how hard work pays off.  But now that I think more about this, are we actually giving our students the chance to work through difficult problems on their own so that they develop these characteristics?
Providing our students with opportunities to work through difficult problems, struggle, and overcome them sometimes is hard for us as teachers.  I think that we, as teachers, need to model more examples ourselves of struggling through something and our ability to overcome the unexpected.  We need to talk about personal situations where this has happened to us.  Or can we recall these times?  
When I think about this personally, I began playing any sport I could at age four and continued through my freshman year at college.  I thrive on working hard and seeing this pay off at game time.  I have played the violin since I was ten years old. Music is a passion and part of me.   I have always loved being a student, learning, and getting As. (I can feel all the Standards Based Grading people cringing! I understand this now.)  
So, when I honestly ask myself, “Did I ever really put myself in a situation where it was difficult and I had to struggle to succeed?”  I think the answer is clear.  “Did I ever put myself in a position where I had to get back up after failing in front of my peers and try a different route to succeed?”   Not so much.  
Don’t get me wrong, I obviously had this happen at some point in my life or I wouldn’t be the resilient, persistent person I am today. I am just saying, I didn’t put myself in these situations.  We ask this of our students all too often.  We must think it is something they are born knowing how to do, yet if we really think about it….did WE take risks when we were young? If you did, what encouraged you to do so?  I imagine it was someone modeling for you.   We must show them how through examples.  As each year passes, I feel more comfortable doing this with my students because I see that this vulnerability empowers students to do the same.
I had one of those parent moments where your heart feels like it will burst and tears are in your eyes this past weekend when my daughter and I did the Monster Dash 5K together. Right before the race started rain began to come down, and we were in costumes! Not exactly my idea of fun, but you gotta make the most of it, right?!  She was visibly irritated with this and the amount of people crowded in.  It was her first race and she obviously had some expectations that I was unaware of.  I asked her if she wanted to go to the party barn and wait for the others, but no.  We started out, more rain came and it was so bunched up we couldn’t really run at first, so I continued to check in with her and by the third time I asked she looked at me and her answer says it all: 
“Mom, I came here to do this.  I did not get this number to just give up and not do it.” 
I was quite proud at that moment because it was another example of her persistence paying off.  Here I was trying to protect her from a difficult situation, when this is what she needed to develop her persistence, resilience, and grit!  I didn’t even realize I was doing this until reflecting later!!
The highlight of this moment was at the end, of course.  After awhile, an eight-year-old can get tired of running (AKA sprinting!), tired of being wet in the rain, and not want to do it anymore.  Being there beside her, constantly encouraging her one little step at a time, got us to the end and we met OUR GOAL time. It all was worth it seeing the HUGE smile on her face and when she turned to me and said, 
“Mom, I am so proud of myself I could burst!  I have never done anything like this before! I finished the whole thing.  I am so happy.”  

Just another moment to show me that allowing our children the chance to experience challenging situations really does build their confidence to succeed in life.
Here are a few pics I got by lagging behind just a little. 🙂
Capturing the moment.
Crossing the finish line and looking back.

So proud of the medal she received!

Reflecting on The Innovator’s Mindset – Part 1

This quote pretty much sums up why I blog, and it is worth mentioning because as I read through George Couros’s book, The Innovator’s Mindset, I will write about what sticks out to me and how I am connecting to his book. I write to deepen and secure my own learning. I write to clear my mind. I write so that I won’t forget.

I pretty much was like a kid on Christmas morning when I knew my book was delivered!  I was able to sit down and read only a little bit before it was time to run to a kid Halloween party, and then deal with The Dramatic Costume Crisis of 2015. (Just a little embarrassed to say it was my costume crisis, not my child’s!)   Fortunately, I was able to dive into it the next day, and read Part I: Innovation in Education.

In an attempt to follow the advice in the book, I am going to put myself out there and take a risk by choosing to publicly write my reflections/responses to one question from the chapters. Yikes! These questions are only a tiny look at the reflecting George encourages you to do at the end of the chapter. I LOVE his idea of having these at the end of the chapter.  It is through these reflection questions that we can have discussions and take action to create opportunities for innovation. These are from his book and I have quoted exact statements, so I hope if George is to read this one day, he is okay with me sharing. 🙂 I will assume so since they are out there on his blog and will be discussed in #PISDbkclub come January.

Ch.1

  • What has changed in our world today that not only makes innovation easier to do, but is also necessary for our students?
  • I am amazed at the opportunities to connect with others that have opened up for educators and students in the recent years.  Where in the past we may have had ideas to make things better, they just stayed in our room with us behind closed doors. We might have told a friend, if we had time.  Now, you can ask a question on a blog, Twitter, FB, email, Skype, Hangout….and within minutes you have a list of different ways to implement this from people who have done it and worked out the kinks.  Why would we NOT use this to our advantage?  I also think that innovation (defined by George as a way of thinking that creates something new and better) naturally happens when we think about our students!  Why not ask them for feedback on how to make a lesson better?  This idea of making the learning relevant for our students is what is necessary. They need to be able to THINK and CREATE.  They are our future. I can’t think of any better reason than that. Just a little pressure to develop the innovator’s mindset, that’s all!
Ch.2
  • How do we take what we currently have to create a better education system for our entire community?
  • I was recently discussing this idea with some fellow educators.  Some will say that in education all we do is try one thing, throw it out for the next thing that comes along until it doesn’t work and then try something else.  This is not about trying something else.  The book clearly shares how it’s about always asking ourselves, “Is there a better way?”  It all starts with empathy.  If we put ourselves in our students’ shoes, I bet we would look for ways to make things better every day. And friends…this is not a bad thing!  I hope to always ask, “Is there a better way of teaching this that is more empowering, more exciting, and so meaningful to their life it will stick with all learners?” until my teaching days are over.  Hold on…don’t worry, I probably will still ask these questions when I am retired.  🙂 easily connected this to my own daughter.  She is a third grader now.  This is THE YEAR!  You know it..testing starts and all teachers feel additional stress, which really saddens me, and every other teacher and parent you know.  This is when teachers start to feel the need to use teaching strategies that produce the scores and not necessarily create innovative cultures or empower students. (Please understand, this is a very generic blanket statement I know and it is not to be viewed as judgemental. I have never taught a testing grade, thank goodness, and so I am simply stating my thoughts from discussions with these teachers.)   We need to share the innovator’s mindset with our policymakers, voters, parents, teachers, students, and everyone!  Spreading the knowledge of our education approaches and developing this mindset will create a better education system because we will all understand the importance and urgency of this shift for our future.  (Alright, soapbox over.)    
Ch.3
  • How do you exhibit the innovator’s mindset in the learning and work that you do currently?
  • Here is the illustration from George’s blog that explains the innovator’s mindset so well.  I am sure many of you have seen it. I have these characteristics as a board in my room so my students can look at these daily and we can discuss the vocabulary word, examples of these characteristics, and even discuss which ones we aim to have.
This was MY FAVORITE part of the first section, so I have to share my key thoughts from each section!
  • Empathetic – Always ask, “Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom.” This makes it real.  Who are we really doing this for?
  • Problem Finders – It’s crucial to not give the problem to kids, but teach them to look for this and be self-starters.
  • Risk Takers – “Risk is necessary to ensure we are meeting the needs of each unique student.”  Perfectly stated, Mr. Couros. 🙂 Another soapbox of mine.  It comes down to our kids deserve it!
  • Networked – The book talks about surrounding yourself with people who actively share ideas because it makes everyone smarter. I also think it makes us take more risks because we feel supported. Cannot say enough this is why I love my Digital Divas group! 
  • Observant – Love the idea that “sometimes the most valuable thing you get from your network isn’t the idea, but the courage to try something new.”  So true for me.  
  • Creators – The part in the book that discusses creating something helps make a personal connection and deepen learning is SPOT on!  Who doesn’t grasp something better when we use our hands to write, sing a rap to remember some facts, or create a picture to remember a concept?! 
  • Resilient – This was my HEART of the chapter.  “As you push the edges of the norm with your innovative ideas, hold on to your conviction and passion.  If you don’t believe in your ideas, why would anyone else?”  I want to engrave this on something and hang it in my classroom!  
  • Reflective – LOVE the idea of Drop Everything and Reflect.  How often we neglect this, but how important it is for learning and growth!  
This is just the first part, and I could have written even more than I have in this novel.  I always try to walk away from a learning experience with a plan of action.  My plan of action from this first part is this:
I will continue to ask myself daily, “Is this what is best for this learner?”  
I will make sure my students love being in my class because I have reflected on, “Would I want to be in this class?”
I will hold on to my conviction and passion.  I solidly stand by my ideas and know I am doing what is best for kids
I will not let one answer of “no” knock me down to the point of not getting up to try something else to make it work.  
I will continue to surround myself around the people who share new ideas and try new things.

WHY?   Our Kids Deserve It!!
I can only imagine the next section is even better!  If you haven’t gotten this book yet, or read about it from the hype on Twitter or Amazon…you are missing out.  Go get it! 





 

Do You Like To Move It Move It? Your Kids Do.

Friends, I am on a mission!  My mission is to share with educators of ALL levels the importance of movement in learning.

Here’s How:

1. Share research Whole-Brain Teaching.

2. Share research on the importance of allowing kids to MOVE and what that does for the brain and learning. This clip from Edutopia excited me!

3. Share the resources I use in my classroom that allows movement.
Examples: Go Noodle, Just Dance Brain Breaks, learning new concepts with motions and songs, singing , exercising while counting by 5s, doing yoga to calm back down and focus, and having different learning spaces!
Brain Research Board on Pinterest

Brain Breaks Board on Pinterest

ADD/ADHD Board on Pinterest                 

Dyslexia Board on Pinterest

Bridget’s Brain Breaks Symbaloo Page

Bridget’s Reading Symbaloo Page

4. Find ways to pass along that these are not extra privileges for students if you have time, but they are NECESSARY.  

The Personal Fuel Behind My Mission:
I realized this week that I am one of those active students teachers discuss! Those of you that know me, you are laughing because this is not news to you.  🙂 But, I really realized it as a student this week in a week-long course where I was expected to sit in my chair 8-4.

I understand there are situations where you need to sit and get information.  I really do. However, after 3 days of this and 2 more to go I said to my husband, “I am not sure I can make it through this week.  It is very hard to sit all day, have information poured into your head with little time to process.

Truth: I like to make up songs and movements to what I am learning.
Truth: I have to talk through my learning with other people, which doubles my learning.
Truth: I like to do yoga poses while I am listening or standing around in class. 🙂


A-ha! Truth: Without reflection time and movement, I was struggling to take this important (much needed & appreciated) info and organize it into compartments of my brain to make sense. I felt very frustrated and overwhelmed. 
Eye Opener:
Here I sat in this class learning things that I knew I needed. I had to sit all day. There were no brain breaks to activate my brain in another way to refocus. My active body felt like it was going to explode inside. I felt like I was struggling to keep up because I was still trying to organize what was already given to me that I couldn’t connect to and make any meaning with.  I couldn’t organize it all because we had to move on.  That’s what bothered me.  As educators, we do the same to our kids. So much to teach them in such little time with so much on our plates! 
Is this what our kids feel like?!  Oh. My. Goodness. If I (a pretty good student who made straight As and loves learning) felt like not going back and was so overwhelmed to tears one morning…it really made me think about our kids that struggle to receive what we throw at them and their feelings.  They may struggle because of ADHD. They may struggle because of Dyslexia. They may struggle with an Auditory Processing deficit.  Maybe they haven’t developed their Executive Functioning Skills fully.

Whatever the struggle, it made me ask…
Do we allow them to move enough?
Do we give them enough processing time?
Do we allow them to choose the way they learn best?
Do we allow them the chance to reflect?

In a recent article I read called  4’33” (Four Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds): What Our Brains Need | Edutopia it explains this imperative importance on reflection and quiet time. It is a great read!

I write this in hopes of sharing the importance of movement with other educators. I hope you will consider Brain Breaks in your classroom.  Try it one day!  Just one day- and see how much clearer your students think!

This summer at a GCISD Valor meeting, a friend and I had the entire room participate in a Brain Break.  We did Pop-See-Ko from Go Noodle. The high school and middle school teachers were a little unsure at first, but then you saw it.  Smiles.  Everyone in that room was ready to re-engage for learning that afternoon.  All it takes is one try and you will NEVER go back!

We can’t stop for a brain break, you say. I say – you can’t afford NOT to!  Move Your Body, Grow Your Brain | Edutopia will show you the WHY of my mission.  Amazing things happen in your brain when you move.

Important Lessons From A Coach

Are we raising our kids to win at all costs?  Or are we teaching them to value the importance of teamwork? Do we realize how our words and actions influence our kids way beyond right now?

Photos courtesy of Tony DeBellis.

As I watched my daughter play her first soccer game of the season on Saturday, I was able to see this clearly.  As always, my mind connects it to education. 
To give you a brief background, my daughter decided one day she was going to play soccer.  Please know, I have played every single sport growing up, except soccer!  Not my thing.  She began playing a year ago, and we soon fell in love.  Not so much with the sport, but I realized it was the coach and team.  My not-so-fond-of soccer attitude stemmed from a few things.  For one, I didn’t have a clue about the rules. The bigger issue I had with soccer was that I completely disagreed with the offsides rule! In my opinion, as a basketball player, you need to hustle back to protect your goal. I know, I could be missing the point completely, but my daughter loved this game so I needed to get past that.   
My sweet girl running to me after the game so happy. You see, she LOVES the game!
Her coach, Coach Doug, is one of those incredible people who values teaching kids the important things in life.  The importance of sportsmanship, respect, fun, compassion, confidence in trying things, and how hard work will pay off.  After watching the first practice, I told my husband, “This guy is a great teacher!”  
He is patient.  He pushes them to be their best.  He values their input.  He asks the kids to tell him when they feel like they have a strength in a position and want to give it a try.  He instills his energy and passion into these young girls.  Most importantly, I have seen him intentionally put them in positions to see their hard work pay off.  Even if it meant they ended up losing the game.  Don’t get me wrong, he never intended or wanted to lose.  (No one wants that!)  He made this intentional decision knowing it was important that they saw their hard work from practice pay off!  This is what would drive them forward as a team.  Why?  Trust.  They trusted Coach Doug.  
You can guarantee it paid off.  Maybe not by winning that game, but as they continued on they took those opportunities to have faith in what they knew was right.  I can promise you, THIS is what keeps my daughter coming back each season!  He is a man of admirable character and it is influencing these young girls more than they know!  Someday they will, and they will go back to thank him.  
This is our group of happy girls before the game.  Can you see how much they love each other and playing?
On Saturday, we were amazed at how much the girls had grown since last season. We were amazed at how awesome their new uniform colors looked.  I mean, come on, fashion still matters. 🙂  However, the most amazing thing we saw was something that took looking a little deeper to see.  It was the way these girls performed on the field like a team that knew the importance of teamwork.  No one wanted to be “the star.”  They wanted to pass to their teammates when it made sense.  They celebrated each other’s successes.  They had FUN! They showed compassion for the other team.  They were allowed to try different positions on the field, as Coach doesn’t want to run up the score on any team.  This team wanted to win, but, win together as a TEAM. And they did.
Celebrating each other!
The “teacher” watching the “students” drive their own learning. 🙂
So, as I sat there once again thinking, Wow, what a great coach!  He is such an incredible teacher of many things for these girls – my mind connected this to education.
Isn’t this what we desire in our classrooms?  
  • Kids that collaborate and work together so all kids are successful.  
  • Kids that sacrifice being the star, so that as a group they all contribute to the win.  
  • Kids that encourage and build each other up.  
  • Kids that have input in the learning.  
  • Kids that have a voice and can tell you their strengths and can also identify their weaknesses
  • Kids that understand how to use their weaknesses and are able to work with others to set goals to develop them.  
  • Mindsets from both kids and teachers that allow for success and positivity in the classroom!

You better believe it is! Coach Doug shows this as the Teacher to his soccer students in every way that I strive to show as the Teacher in my classroom with my Students.
My mother repeatedly tells me that teachers and coaches have an incredible impact on the lives of every child they encounter.  She is right.  Children look up to their teachers and coaches.  Every word that is spoken to a child will forever be etched in their hearts.  I feel so blessed that my daughter has Coach Doug as the coach in her life etching positive words into her heart and building up her self-confidence.  
One of my favorite pictures from the day!  Read the caption to see why. 🙂
This mama wearing the “Soccer Mom” hat her daughter picked out for her!
Guess this shows that I am starting to love the game. 🙂

A Mindset Shift – It’s For ALL Kids

This week was full of information, learning, collaborating, rethinking, and most importantly REFLECTING! So in the attempt of reflecting and deepening my learning through writing, here is how I got to the mindset thought, again!

I am sure many of you have seen the Backwards Brain Bike video and listened to the story.  If not, visit The Backwards Brain Bicycle- Smarter Every Day 133 to hear this story.

What really intrigued me about this whole story was when we were asked how this relates to us?  Out of the 20 or so teachers in that room, each one of us had a different connection to this story and different ways to apply it to our teaching. What we all knew was that the mindset of most adults is just different than that of most children.  It blew my mind how it took this guy months and months of practice to get this down.  It took the child no time at all to learn to ride this bike.  
What it left with me was more questions about this “mindset” that is the big discussion these days.  
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Carol Dweck’s book (both times I read it) and completely support this.  I just can’t help but wonder…..
  • Why is it that adults seem to have a fixed mindset in so much of their thinking, whether they want to admit it or not? 
  • Why is it that for the most part, children are so open to taking risks and attempting new things?
  • If that growth mindset shifts for children, when does this happen?  What are the pivotal things that happen to cause this shift in children?

I first read Mindset and began thinking about this around 3 years ago.  I was teaching 2nd grade, but I mostly connected with this as a parent.    
My initial thoughts were:
  1. I have a fixed mindset about my personal abilities such as math, writing, and such, but a growth mindset about my teaching and my classroom.  Hmmm…
  2. I have been praising my daughter and not really encouraging her to fail and learn. But wait, why would I want her to fail?   What does that really mean, anyway?
So began my quest to create this mindset in my 5 year old!!  She, like many of the children in my classroom, is a gifted child who rarely struggled.  I always knew she had determination, a strong-will and perseverance like no other.  🙂 When she was 3 years old, she decided before leaving to go shopping that she was going to teach herself how to tie her own shoes.  She didn’t stop until SHE mastered it.  As much as it wears me out, I know this is a great characteristic to have in life. But, as she did this I noticed her frustration with not being able to get something the first time she tried.  It made me think about other things she would do that if not perfect the first time, caused a big issue.  
Then and there my goal, as a parent and teacher, was to push and challenge my kids to hit that wall and not master something. This, of course, happening through differentiating all teaching and learning in my classroom for all kids!! (If you don’t know by now, I am a HUGE advocate for differentiation in ALL areas!!)  These kids had spent their early school years always making As, always giving the right answers, always knowing exactly how to be a perfect student.  Isn’t that what has always been expected of our children?  Until now.
What I wanted was for them to not be able to do something so that I could show them how to get through it.  I know, you are thinking…what, you wanted them to fail at something intentionally?  For this reason, yes!  I wanted to be the guide alongside them when they hit that wall to see what they would do.  Boy, was that eye opening!  The lesson comes in being right there so that you can guide them along with many of the key phrases and inspirations from Carol Dweck that teaches them how to think and use positive self-talk. To really think and work through something.  We are there to teach them how to retrain their brain, much like the backwards bike rider, to thinking they can do this.  We all know the brain research on how you can talk yourself into believing it!  That is what is missing so much in today’s children and what we have to teach these children as they become our future leaders.
Isn’t that what is most important? Not the failing, but what you do when you hit that spot that is a huge turning point for a child’s self esteem and future successes. If a child is never given the chance to see the power that comes in being able to push through a challenge, they’ll never know what they are truly capable of achieving!
As I see all of the growth mindset boards and phrases up around me in classrooms and schools, it reminds me to think about this philosophy and encourage it to be applied to ALL children, not just your gifted children. 
ALL children deserve to be challenged.
ALL children deserve to learn in an environment where they can take a risk and fail.
ALL children deserve to be taught how to get up from that failure and keep going to make something of it!  Here is usually where the biggest life lessons occur.
If we are not there to teach them this when they are young, maybe this is the point where their growth mindsets turn into a fixed mindset.   
I am super excited about the new books out there that foster this positive self-talk and other ways to build this thinking in all children at a young age. I plan to remember this as my daughter starts 3rd grade and academics become harder.  I plan to remember this as I start a new position and a huge learning curve will be happening.  I will be saying, “This is going to take me some time and effort.” instead of “This is too hard.”   With the positive thinking, we CAN make some incredible things happen! Intelligence and AWESOME things can be developed, you are not always just born with it!

Tons of awesome literature to read to your classroom that provides great classroom discussions.

Reflecting In the Strangest of Places

Today, I did two things out of the norm for me!

  • Tried a NEW nail salon!
  • Chatted education and had a moment with my new nail lady!
That’s right.  Not the norm for me.  Here is what happened.
I was making small talk with the lady and after making introductions I told her how I liked the new place because it was very bright and open.  She told me, “Yes, it is nice working here. It is a very clean, sanitized place.  I like very clean.”  
        My first thought was well umm good to know…..so do I.  Especially at a nail salon.  
As I sat there watching her, something inside me decided to ask her how she learned to do what she does?  Does she attend professional development classes to keep up with current trends?  Her initial response kind of bothered me at first.  She laughed and said, “School didn’t teach nothing.”  Clearly, she missed me saying I was a teacher!  🙂
It was what she said next that surprisingly had me understanding exactly why she said this.  
“You have to have skill to do this.  You have to work and get experience and go watch other people.  You see their skill and then you learn.  Then you practice.  I didn’t go into this because I wanted to do it.  I did this job because I knew it was one that I would be able to find anywhere.  Then, I began practicing my job to get better and now I grow to love it.  I didn’t think I could do nails at first, but after practice, now I know I can. I just keep watching and learning more.” 

WOW!  I just sat there thinking for a second before I responded.  For one, I have NEVER had a conversation like this with any past nail lady.  Secondly, I was seeing her mindset shift from a fixed to a growth mindset.  When I did speak, I told her what any teacher would say… that it is really great how she keeps watching and learning from others.  We teach our children the same thing about learning new things and how we grow from our mistakes.
(This is when she asked me to teach her 5 year old because she doesn’t have patience with him. hehe. I thought, at this point in the summer, aren’t we all going crazy!)

Even though she talked as if she was new and learning, my nails turned out fantastic!  Actually, better than at my old place!  Could it be because of her attitude of continued growth from watching others?  I don’t know, but I am going to say yes!

Isn’t this exactly what we do as educators as well?  The more experience at something we get, the better we get.  The more questions we ask, the more we know.  The more we watch each other, the more we learn and grow.  This is why I love being a part of VALOR so much! Then we practice, and continue doing it, never settling for knowing it all!  

There were 3 great personal lessons I learned from my “out-of-routine” journey today.  

  1. You can reflect on things in the strangest of places.
  2. You can really get to know people, if you just stop talking and ask them questions.
  3. I love my NEW nail salon!