I assigned my 5th graders Powerpoint presentations on the early settlers (New England, Middle Colony, Southern Colony) and the rubric included a MAXIMUM of 5 words per slide.
“Ideally, you will choose an image that represents your topic for the slide – consider a primary source, such as a drawing – and then add key words that will remind you of the content for that slide,” I instructed.
“Five words? Only five words?” They asked.
“Yes. Key words to remind you of what to say.”
Because who wants to read paragraphs on a slide?
They went to work, buzzing like angry bees. This would require them to know the material very well.
When I was five and my sister was four, our babysitter watched us coloring in our coloring books. Where my sister stayed within the lines, I colored slightly (OK, maybe not so slightly) outside the lines. “JoAnne colors nicely and Caroline needs to work on that a little bit.” Her sarcasm was not lost on me, even then.
This bit of criticism colored my world (pardon the pun!) “I am not a good artist.” This was just something I accepted for many years. But I’ve always longed to draw and paint. For someone with no formal art education, I think I am pretty OK. I think I can improve and I very much want to improve.
For eons, people believed in the “Fixed Mindset” – that talents are innate and readily apparent; Believers assert that one should avoid mistakes and failures. In fact, if you find yourself failing at something, people who adopt the “fixed mindset” philosophy say you ought to just quit, because clearly, it’s not for you.
But Dweck, one of the leading researchers of motivation, discovered the truth about achievement and learning: The Growth Mindset. She says you learn from mistakes. You grow! Intelligence and talent are developed and in order to be successful, you must make mistakes. Clearly, this is true. The Wright brothers did not discover how to create a plane on the first attempt and Edison did not discover the light bulb on his first try, either. One needs to make mistakes to learn, grow and achieve.
Growth Mindset believers say “yet” is the magic word. I can’t draw well yet, but with consistent practice and quality education, I will!
Check out her website: mindsetonline.com. It includes a test to determine where you are on the mindset continuum and ways to change it.
I’m going to start drawing lessons (free) on skillshare.com. Go Growth Mindset!
When I was eight years old, my teacher, Ms. Meretta, told my mother I was one of the hardest working kids she had ever had. Until then, no adult had ever said anything positive about me. Really. My parents were concerned that I showed no genius academically. They compared me to other kids (always unfavorably). My other teachers were either distracted by personal problems, or they just seemed mean (maybe they weren’t, but they seemed unapproachable). One teacher said she liked me, but I rushed through my work too quickly to get to the “book table.” I liked reading too much.
I loved Ms. Meretta. I worked even harder after her comment to my mom. But this time, I worked hard not just for myself..but for Ms. Meretta, too.
When I was a young adult, I worked as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. It was a fun and rewarding job. I loved the energy the kids brought each day. I loved thinking of fun activities and working with them. I laughed every day. I laughed every hour.
I’ve held different jobs but none have had the creative opportunities or the intrinsic rewards of teaching. One of my favorite gifts from a student was a short letter. I had recommended him to go to a school for high-achieving students. He had older siblings who attended a school closer to his home. He always assumed he’d follow their footsteps. It was easy to hold the fastest track time there. It was easy to be the best student. I told him I knew he would succeed at the Academy, a school that was more rigorous and offered both Spanish and Mandarin. “Besides,” I told him. “if you go and you don’t like it, you can always go to the other school.” He went to the Academy and he loved it. He wrote a letter thanking me because he’s so happy and he’s learning so much. His younger sister now attends the Academy, too.
Helping kids is endlessly rewarding.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I wish the media and politicians would stop with the negative talk about teachers and public education. Why pick on educators? Of course not every single teacher is highly qualified, but not every doctor, nurse, accountant, or politician is, either. For every lousy teacher you hear about, there are easily 1,000 fantastic teachers. I’ve had to handle a sixth grade student who slashed her peers with a razor. I’ve had to handle a fourth grade student who crapped his pants every week. I’ve had to handle students who complained of verbally abusive parents and who cried of hunger.
It’s that time of year again…when students who want to vye for a Student Council Officer position run their campaigns: create posters, prepare speeches, record them and hope for the best.
As I recorded several children giving their speeches, I was touched by their earnestness and jitters. It’s impossible for all who run to win, yet they are all – each of them – winners.
If there’s one thing I think we don’t teach our children enough (at home or school) is that it’s OK to try, to take a risk and not reach our goal. That it doesn’t mean we’re failures or that we ought to be ashamed.
It might sound like common sense to you.
Yet the words “loser” and “ashamed” are so pervasive in our culture. And “risktaker” denotes a type of reckless stunt person.
Risk-taking is the only way we grow, and it often includes some degree of pain.
We took a Red Eye yesterday from Mesa, AZ to Crystal City, VA with one layover. Fueled solely on excitement and junk food, 28 8th graders gleefully walked to the Newseum. They read about the history of journalism and watched a sobering video on 9/11. The kids sat in suspended disbelief while the adults cried in remembrance.
As we walked everywhere, I brought up the rear of the group to maintain our number of 28. It was hard to prod kids normally taking selfies to “rush” their snaps of cherry blossoms.
One overheard conversation:
“Why don’t you eat cheese?”
“I gave it up for Lent.”
“Cheese is really hard to give up! I mean, REALLY hard!
At the end of the day, I asked kids, “What has been your favorite part of the trip thus far?”
They thought for a long minute.
“Being able to do everything here with my friends.”
I am about to chaperone an 8th grade Close-Up trip. It will be hard work: a red eye flight and then lots of walking, talking, learning, and teaching for 6 entire days (and nights). BUT, I will not have to: