Thursday, July 24, 2014

UVA Conference - Day 3! Teacher Mindset

Yesterday morning and a portion of this morning we spent some time talking about Mindset. I've talked about mindset before, and I shared some of Carol Dweck's work with you in my last post, but I thought I'd highlight really quickly what I've learned about the advantages to having a growth mindset.
When a teacher has a growth mindset they:

-Shape student self-perception positively
-Build group trust
-Teach what they believe children can learn
-Do what it takes to make sure their kids are successful

Unfortunately, having a fixed mindset leads to the exact opposite. My principal pointed out today that it is just as important to make sure that parents know about this stuff. If you've ever caught a parent saying "Jenny just isn't good at spelling. Her dad is good at math, but she takes after me." That's cringe-worthy fixed mindset material! We've got to step in and teach parents sometimes. What you mean is, "Jenny isn't a good speller yet. We'll do what it takes to help her become one though!" "Her dad has always been good at math, she can be too if she puts her mind to it."

Here's a piece of food for thought. What if our rubrics only had two categories? Acceptable, and Above. Remember from yesterday? Sustained failure is not acceptable. If a student fails at something and isn't given the opportunity to try again and get better (with scaffolding) then that must mean that the task given wasn't important enough for them to need mastery. If that's the case, why was the task given at all? We should give our kids tasks that lead to understandings. We should do what it takes to make sure that they master those understandings. We know they can with the right help!

Another tidbit: Why do we have to be certain that our lessons are engaging? Because kids eat up knowledge when it's served as ice cream, and they ignore it when it's liver and onions! Engaging doesn't always mean fun, either! Sometimes you engage your kids by getting them angry. (Like when I showed my 5th graders last year the figure that represents the number of slaves still in today's modern world)  Sometimes you engage them with a mystery. Sometimes you give them a mission. If you truly connect the content to their lives and experiences, they'll be engaged.

Well, I know that was a quick check-in, but I'm a sleepy guy! We went out and toured Monticello this afternoon. It was super interesting...and super hot! Here's a picture of one of America's greatest geniuses ignoring me, much like he seemed to ignore the problem of slavery! It's hard to believe that Jefferson had such an amazing mind, yet owned over 600 slaves in his lifetime...some of which were actually his own children, nieces, and nephews. It was refreshing to see that the good people at Monticello have come to terms with his sordid past, and are portraying Jefferson as the complicated, enlightened, crazy-intelligent, and yet completely hypocritical man that he really was. 

If you're ever in Charlottesville, it's worth the trip! The house is truly intriguing, and the tour guides were both great! They definitely showed that passion for their content that is so important.

I'll check in tomorrow with a little about assessment and feedback!


  1. Thanks for sharing what you are learning at your conference. We have been talking a lot about Growth Mind Sets in the math course I am taking right now. I like how you related it to what parents say at conferences - that is so true!!

  2. We read her book about 6 years ago as a school. I really should go back and read it again.

    You point about engagement is spot on--it's not always about fun and candy--it's about getting them involved, intrigued, and angry. Those all work for me.

    Thanks for sharing this Nick


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