I #LoveTeaching: My Students Are My Greatest Gifts

I count myself among the richest in the world. 

No, I don’t have a lot of money or an extravagant home, but I am a teacher. I know most people think teachers are good people because they’re willing to sacrifice and work so hard for a salary that is meager when compared to other professions with similar levels of education. I have to say that I love what I do — I #LoveTeaching. I would certainly appreciate making more money; perhaps enough so I wouldn’t need to supplement my income, but I didn’t go into teaching thinking I would one day be a wealthy woman — at least in the traditional sense of the word.
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Growth Mindset: Rephrasing Praise

Getting Better Together

Having a growth mindset is multifaceted. In part, it’s about persistence —  adapting and trying a different approach when the first attempt fails. People with a growth mindset see feedback as critique, rather than criticism. Learning becomes it’s own reward and ticking off goals along the way motivates the learner to continue.

Creating a classroom climate that is conducive to developing a growth mindset in students requires thinking about several points. Teachers think in terms of students setting worthwhile and attainable goals for themselves, engaging students in learning situations where they can work collaboratively and cooperatively, each contributing and learning from one another. Growth mindset in the classroom also means offering constructive feedback to help guide students’ next steps, and giving praise that highlights effort and resilience rather than the attributes students have no control over.

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Growth Mindset Chat: A #TchLIVE Professional Learning Community

Getting Better Together

This year, as part of my professional growth plan, I’m delighted to facilitate a virtual professional learning community via Twitter chat to delve more deeply into growth mindset. Growth mindset is the theory that intelligence, talent, and ability are fluid and can be developed with effective effort over time. This is in opposition to the theory that intelligence, ability, and talent are fixed — you either have them or you don’t. This work is important to me because I believe that all students can learn, and part of my challenge as an educator is helping my students to believe that as well.

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Growth Through Feedback

Getting Better Together

One of my favorite parts of being an educator is learning. It may sound strange, but I love learning new things and getting better at what I do. It recharges my batteries.

Every school year, I begin the year excited to apply something new that I’ve learned. I reflect critically about the things that were successful with my last cohort of students, and which areas left room for growth. I intentionally seek learning opportunities that will support my professional growth in the areas that present a challenge. This is how I model growth mindset.

Growth mindset has been the center of my Getting Better Together project with Teaching Channel. Over the past year, I wrote about my journey related to instilling a growth mindset in my students. This video playlist is a window into our work.

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#TeacherLove: Love Looks Like Time, Tenderness, and “Toddler Fridays”

#TeacherLove

I met her in 2000 as I was bringing my oldest daughter, then three years DeeDee Farmer old, for her pre-kindergarten screening. She was amazing. She had a way of connecting with young children that was completely non threatening and on their level; yet they understood that she was in charge. My daughter used to say, in her three-year-old voice, “She is not a lady; she is a little girl.” She insists that you call her DeeDee, but her name is Dr. Deneita Jo Farmer.

DeeDee is the coordinator of the Pre-Kindergarten Partnership Program for Oak Park School District 97, and has been for many years. The program she leads is designed for students who are at-risk, and my daughter qualified due to a speech delay that she has long since overcome. DeeDee assured me that I was doing all the right things and that my daughter wouldn’t suffer any ill effects as a result of her diminished hearing during her early years.

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Revisiting Growth Mindset

Getting Better Together

I’ve always felt proud to say that I am a teacher. Teachers are some of the kindest, most generous people on the planet, and the teachers I work with are no exception.

Teachers in Oak Park, like teachers everywhere, love their students. They work hours on end after the school day is done, planning and preparing for the students they serve. They are more than teachers; they are home away from home, social worker, nurse, and friend. Needless to say, teachers leave an indelible mark on their students.

Earlier this year, I was able to sit down with a handful of my colleagues as part of my Getting Better Together work, which is focused on cultivating a growth mindset among my students. This impromptu “Professional Learning Network” session, which we recorded via a Google Hangout on Air, was amazing and very powerful for me as a teacher. Here’s a recording of the session:

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#TchLIVE: Growth Mindset

In the last couple of years, the topic of growth mindset has been buzzing about in my district and, it seems, everywhere else. Much of the professional development offered in my district as well as the professional development I’ve sought, has at least touched upon the issue of student mindsets. Carol Dweck, the pioneer in the field, has explained the importance of having a growth mindset. But the burning question is: How do we teach that to our students, all of them?

I’ve been giving some thought to the ways in which my mindset is fixed about certain things, yet malleable regarding others. How do I work with my struggling students to increase their perseverance and improve the effectiveness of their effort? How do I let students know that I will never give up on them, even if they themselves give up? How do I teach my high-achieving students that when something is hard, that doesn’t mean you’re not good at it, it just means that you haven’t figured it out yet? These are my questions and my challenges.

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High Expectations Teaching

Tch Laureate Team

This is part of Marion Ivey’s Getting Better Together series, Moving From I Can’t To I Can’t Yet. Marion and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

When I initially became familiar with the Common Core State Standards, I thought its new outcomes for students were unrealistic. I’ve participated in one professional development activity after another, each seeming to contradict the previous about how to achieve these outcomes with students.

Getting Better TogetherSurprisingly, though, what I’ve found is that each time I’ve raised the bar for my students, each time I’ve asked them to do a little bit more, and believed that they could, they’ve done it. Each time I’ve raised my expectations, and provided support and guidance, my students have met my expectations.

Let me give you an example. When my district first began implementing the new English Language Arts standards, the consultant we worked with wanted all of our assessments to be written. I don’t know if she had ever taught kindergarten, but most of my students come in having never written a sentence in their lives. Some don’t even know the alphabet when we begin together. I thought there was no way that I could ever get my students to do what she was asking in 179 days.

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Family Conferences

Tch Laureate Team

This is part of Marion Ivey’s Getting Better Together series, Moving From I Can’t To I Can’t Yet. Marion and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

In the district where I teach, our student-led conferences are celebrated. In kindergarten, we ask families to bring their child with them so that the student can share what they’ve been working on at school.

Getting Better TogetherOne of the first things I do during family conferences is ask the student to identify two things they’d like to get better at. I provide a list of options they can choose from based on skills or tasks I’d like them to get better at. I provide a wide range because my students have a wide range of skills, and I want to be certain that there’s something each of them can choose that’s appropriate.

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