I shared my drawing of llamas today with my fifth graders.
I got a rousing, “Not bad!”
For some reason, they loved yesterday’s 5 minute timed writing prompt:
“Describe how to drive your teacher crazy.”
Each morning, I open my drawing book, 20 Ways to Draw Everything. I make myself draw whatever is in front of me. I am always tempted to draw the easiest figures. I might start with the easiest, but I know that I will not get better if I stick to the simple ones. My initial goal was to draw all 20, but because I have only 45 minutes to draw before I go to work, I choose about six: a few easy, a few difficult.
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!
Five years ago, I left a corporate job to go back to teaching. I missed the kids more than I wanted the money.
I was asked to teach the 4th quarter with sixth graders in a low socio-economic school. Their previous teacher abandoned the post. He never said goodbye, he just left. Of the 30 students I taught, more than half had fathers in prison. Every child qualified for free breakfast and lunch. One of the male students had very strange eyebrows. Someone told me that his older brother and a gang tied him down and shaved his eyebrows off. They never grew back quite right.
As I got to know the children, I realized most had been traumatized in a number of ways: neglect, verbal and physical abuse and (I suspected) sexual abuse. One of my students was a sweet, round-faced boy. He wore the same pants every day and they looked dirty, but he was always kind. He was always smiling and he walked and talked slowly. I’ll call him Francisco.
One of the teachers had over 12 years experience at the school. She was extremely strict with all of the kids. I know she cared about them and wanted them to be successful, but she acted as if each child had a bull’s eye on their back. She was constantly barking orders and yelling.
We were outside, lined up to go back inside from lunch. Francisco walked slowly to line. Apparently, too slowly. This teacher yelled at him, “Who do you think you are? What are you trying to prove? Too cool to care?” We all stood, stunned. “When you walk, walk with purpose and walk fast! And tuck your shirt in!”
I wanted to explain that this was the way he always walked.
I wanted to come to his defense and vouch for his character.
I wanted to stop her from attacking him wrongfully.
But I didn’t. I froze.
It haunts me to this day. I should have stood up for him.
But he was Mexican-American. She was Mexican-American. I am Korean-American, an outsider, only to be there for 9 weeks.
This was their school, not mine.
I see now, I was wrong. It was our school. Right is right and wrong is wrong.
Never just stand by silently. Speak your mind when you see a wrong.
I went to the mall last weekend and looked at these products. They were not discounted, so I didn’t buy them.
Today, one of my 5th grade students presented me with them! Funny how that happens! In big letters, they say “Stress Relief.” As we near the end of the school year, stress relief is key. He is so thoughtful!
I wrote an email to his mother to thank her. She emailed me back:
“As for the gift, that was all “M.”* He used his money and it was his idea this year.”
He used his money! He’s in 5th grade and earns money by working for a hockey organization. What an amazing kid.
Teaching kids like him gives me so much hope and optimism for the future. Our kids are hard-working, thoughtful, intelligent, and just good to the core. They make me feel like everything is going to be OK.
I’m grateful to be a teacher and work with amazing kids each day.
-Listen to your child, rather than imposing your goals and wishes on him or her. Listening to your child encourages independent thought and critical thinking. It helps you avoid a common downfall of helicopter parents: imposing your values on your child.
-Don’t manage your child’s relationships or communications for him or her.
-Don’t try to help your child escape consequences for his or her actions, unless you believe those consequences are unfair or life-altering. It’s fine to hire your child a lawyer if he or she is in legal trouble, or to intervene with a bullying teacher. But don’t try to get your kid out of detention or berate another parent who talks to your child about problematic behavior.
-Don’t raise your child to expect treatment that is different from, or better than, the treatment other children receive. Your child shouldn’t expect to get something they don’t deserve or didn’t earn.
-Encourage your children to solve their own problems by asking them to contemplate potential solutions.
-Don’t do your child’s work for them, or keep track of deadlines for them. Even school-aged children can learn to remember test dates and classroom projects. By middle school, your child should be managing their schoolwork largely on their own, with only as-needed help.
-Support your child’s teacher, and encourage your child to respect the teacher’s opinions.
-Allow your child to face natural consequences for their actions. Don’t allow a child to stay home sick just because she or he didn’t timely complete a school project.
*Eric Hoffer was a great American thinker and he never actually said anything about helicoptering parenting. It just rhymes nicely.
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.