As a kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, I loved helping kids learn how to read. The joy in their faces as they sounded out words was priceless. I lived to see kids exclaim, “I can read!” But it wasn’t just about learning how to read. It was even more important to me to help my students develop a love of reading.
I read rich and captivating stories to my class every day, hoping to show students that reading can be magical and entertaining. I encouraged parents to read with their kids nightly, creating more opportunities for kids to see reading as fun. For families who didn’t have books at home, I sent home picture books from our classroom library. Above all, my goal was for kids to read many different books in many different settings.
So needless to say, I’m incredibly excited about the Billion eBook Gift, of which Teaching Channel is a proud partner, beginning on December 1st (#GivingTuesday). It’ll be the largest gift of books in history, with a billion classic eBooks given to families across the nation. This will be a great resource to pass on to families at your school! This gift was created to ensure that all children have access to high-quality books at home. Every family who signs up at BillionBookGift.com can get a free library of 50 classic children’s eBooks absolutely free. You’ll be able to access the books via desktop computer, your Apple or Android phone, and via iPads and tablets.
I’ve been at Teaching Channel as its Chief Academic Officer and then as CEO for the last four years. I am now preparing to step down — so I wanted to reflect and say a rousing Thank You to all of our community!
Lots has happened in the past four years. When I arrived we had 500 teachers in our online community. Very soon, we will top over 800,000. Back then, we had 400 unique visitors every month; now we have over 500,000. We had 400 videos in our library; now we have over 1000+, with lots more in the works. I hired our first stellar laureate, Sarah Brown Wessling. We now have a fabulous team of ten laureates who are helping our community think about how all teachers, no matter how long they’ve been teaching, get better together.
A week ago, on a trip to visit colleges with our son, we stayed at a school converted into a hotel. It was cleverly renovated — the cafeteria now a restaurant, the detention room a bar, classrooms now guestrooms, and the auditorium an intimate movie theatre.
The school smell is long gone, but the “sounds” of school persist. The hotel halls echo and bang like school corridors despite their new purpose. Adorned with photos of former students, teachers, and PTA presidents, the hallway walls leak stories to guests walking from room to room. The sound of learning continues with evening lectures and discussions, and showcases of local artists. In each guest room, walls are still lined with chalkboards and chalk so guests can resurrect those iconic sounds.
As an educator, my hope is to develop joyful, self-directed, engaged learners. Learners who are curious about the world around them, who are excited to take on challenges, who are willing to take risks, and who are resilient and flexible in the face of failure. In sum, learners who have a growth mindset.
I’ve found that building a classroom culture of growth mindset changes how students approach their learning, and is transformational in helping them build the habits of mind to be successful within and beyond the classroom. As one of my kindergartners explains, “If you don’t know how to do something, you can try it again and again and fix your mistakes, and if you don’t give up, you really showed growth mindset.”
The following are three key tips that can support the development of a community of growth mindset learners in your classroom.
So much of teaching is living in tension: giving more support vs. letting a student productively struggle. Following your own judgement vs. following the curriculum. Praise for good work vs. pushing for better.
And one tension I think about often is giving students my best vs. having more to give to future students. Burnout is a real risk in this profession. We have to find ways to do the job well and in a way that let’s us make it a career. As a teacher of high school English students and a father of a toddler, I feel this tension acutely. Fortunately, I’ve found some strategies to help make feedback more time-effective, without sacrificing the support and direction students need for their growth.
This is the second in a six-part series titled Making in Schools.
The core of what attracts us to maker-centered learning at Lighthouse is that it develops student agency and ownership of learning. The Agency by Design (AbD) framework, which we discussed in our last post, “What Is Making?” guides our work with learners in becoming more aware of the design of the world around us by taking a closer look at objects and systems.
As students become more aware of the design of the world around them, they begin to see themselves as people who can affect that design and are also empowered to actually do the work — to tinker, hack, and improve design. This newfound awareness isn’t limited to objects, but can move into the core curriculum as well, through discussion of the design of governmental systems, cell structure, or a poem.
I’ve just returned from a trip to our nation’s capital, where I was with Seattle educator Jessica Levine working on a new Tch initiative. The initiative, in partnership with several highly respected science and professional development organizations — NSTA, Achieve, Making Sense of Science, American Museum of Natural History — centers around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The idea is to pull together video resources to help teachers navigate the shift to 21st century standards.
Why share this now if the project is still at the formative stages? Because we need your input. Teaching Channel has made, and continues to make, a significant investment in many different aspects of science teaching practice. Just one click away are 140 science videos covering a variety of topics (including my own, To the Moon!). And recently, Teaching Channel released four videos that show two teachers as they begin — and continue — to move their practice towards helping their students meet the goals of NGSS.
I have a love-hate relationship with giving feedback. I love how potent a tool it is to help students move their learning forward. I love the occasions when I can get the feedback to students “just for them, just in time, and just helping nudge forward” as John Hattie said, and see their skills blossom. I hate when I see an intimidating pile of student work. I hate when I feel I don’t have time to give ideal feedback. And I hate when I commit time to giving feedback, but it doesn’t help students.
So, I’m spending some time this year re-thinking feedback.
How many times have you heard yourself say, “Don’t TELL me what you know, SHOW me what you understand.” For humans to learn, Richard Elmore points out in his research that they need “encouragement and support, access to special knowledge, time to focus on the requirements of the new task, [and] time to observe others doing it.” Educators know the power of learning together. Yet, teaching is such an isolated profession; we go into our classrooms, shut the door, and then magical things happen from within our four walls. Outsiders rarely see. Our administration and district leaders catch little glimpses of the “magic,” and in an attempt to share our bag of tricks, they ask us to participate in Professional Learning Communities. Talking just isn’t enough, and in our profession we don’t have systems in place for us to “see” one another in action. I’d like this to change. What if we could share more effectively? What if I could see what cool things are happening in my friend’s classroom next door and never have to write sub plans?
As a social studies teacher, other than the daily worry about particular students, I felt the most anxiety about my practice the day after an atrocity. How do I teach students about these events and not terrify or discourage them from engaging in the world?
I felt paralyzed in having to face them, ready to answer the why question, or ready to exude certainty that this event was surely an anomaly. Adding to the challenge for teachers today is that students sit in our classrooms full of vivid images of the events from popular media, which fuels the fire of helplessness and doom. Because the world of late has given us so much to explain and reassure them about, this anxiety is hard to shake.
And yet, teachers influence the way students make sense of a catastrophic event likely more than anyone. As teachers we know that the real power in experiences is in the sense-making — in the stories we tell in the aftermath, and how these stories direct how we live.