Whoops, forgot to blog – #Hackyrclass

If you have read any of my past blog posts you may know that last year I was on leave as a house husband and then part time teacher at Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti School where I got to hack the curriculum a bit and learn heaps. Well……. this year I am back at my “real” job which is at a large state school on the outskirts of Christchurch.

If you have had time off, this may resonate with you but coming back full time with your wife also teaching full time and trying to manage getting a kid to school and home again and all the other stuff over a 12 week term is pretty full on. I have loved it all but crikey, I have found it hard to make the time to blog and collect my thoughts outside of the school day. I have also accepted that this year I will run my slowest CHCH marathon for ages – to date I have been getting faster with age. My twitter watching/participating has also dropped, however, I happened to sneak a peek tonight and catch a post by @ClaireAmosNZ and @GeoMouldey with the #hackyrclass. This has got me motivated and I like the chance to be directed in my thinking for a bit – a cognitive burden has been lifted.

So……if I read it right, this week is about “growth Mindsets”. I have seen this jargon on twitter and not really known what it is about. To be fair, my understanding is still a little naïve (I kind of skimmed a few things to get the vibe – so this is my “right now thinking and may change over the week”). Anyway, it resonates with me big time. I have blogged about this before and I have met teachers who believe in fixed ability and I have witnessed teaching practices that lead students to believe they have limited and fixed ability and it makes me ANGRY!!!

One of the reasons I am so into this is that at the beginning of my own learning journey, I never saw myself as a good learner. My effective strategies for success were, stay quiet and avoid the teacher calling on you. My teachers thought I was great but I had no idea most of the time. Fast forward and I got through university (with an honours degree – thanks very much) but it required a lot of effort and I was still not what I would call a good learner. Now, I would say I am an ace learner and I really love learning. I guess I accidently developed a growth mindset at some point. In fact it all happened in or around 2001. This was my second year of teaching and in my “real” job, I was supported in learning about learning. My school gave me access to Art costa, Julia Aitkin and many others. I also got the opportunity to present my thinking to others at conferences and stuff (big learning opportunity). More recently, well for the last 6 years, I have been able to learn from and with Pam Hook and SOLO Taxonomy. It was a passing comment from Pam that has guided my teaching philosophy for the last few years and I now share it with all my classes. It is this:

Success = Effort + Effective Strategies

For me, I managed to get through university with heaps of effort but not really knowing how I did it. If I had the effective strategies I do now, maybe I would have finished my masters year instead of going travelling….nahh.

Anyway, I see this playing out in classes all the time. Students are not given the strategies, do not experience success, effort disappears. For some, they may have had years of this negative cycle being reinforced by teachers. Last year I had the opportunity to work with some disengaged students who really saw themselves as hopeless. They even had some fantastic strategies to self reinforce their negative beliefs. We presented them with the equation above and everything we did linked back to effective strategies for success. It was only an 8 week course but the students self reflections showed that they had shifted their mindset about themselves as learners. the blog for that is here http://wp.me/p2WwXN-8c

This is also true for gifted kids. Success comes easily and sometimes they do not even know why. For these kids, when they do encounter something that does not come easily, they freak out. For me, as a teacher, I am conscious to use the term effective strategies whenever I can (it has a nice presupposition that we are going to be effective). It is also an easy way to teach the learning process to students and help make the learning visible to them. We are not doing this because Mr Perry is trying to fill the time before lunch, we are doing this because it is an effective strategy to make links between this new learning and that’s like what we need to do for merit and excellence and now he expects us all to strive for that.

So what are effective strategies??? There are lots of them. Anything that you think is good teaching stuff and you share the intent and reasoning with your students. For me, most of my truly effective strategies revolve around the use of SOLO Taxonomy (as you can see in my blog posts)

So summing up my initial thoughts about developing a growth mindset:

  • Believe and tell your students that everyone as huge learning potential
  • let the students know that success = effort + effective strategies
  • let the students know your a trained professional (they laugh at me when I say that) and you whole purpose in life is to help them in developing effective strategies for success – their job is to supply the effort
  • have high expectations
  • Use a SOLO Framework
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