Every so often an interaction with a student provides invaluable perspective and outlook on both teaching and life. Today was one of those instances.
I was in charge of today’s PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Support) Assembly, where we recognize students who have shown the RAMS Way (Respect, Always Responsible, Manners, and Safety) over the past month. Students receive awards, VIP tickets, play games, and are reminded to show the RAMS Way everyday, both in and out of school. Since it is almost Halloween, I chose to do a Halloween themed “Eyeball relay race” which involved students using a spoon to carry a bouncy ball eyeball (I found them at Target!) around a series of cones. For the younger grades they just walked/ran around the cones, and the older grades we had them use scooters.
It was prior to the older grades’ assembly that the perspective I mentioned earlier was experienced. You see, while drawing names for students to participate in the game, I drew the name of a student who happened to be on crutches. For a second I thought I should draw another name to replace the student, however at just that moment the student in question walked by. I asked them to stop by the table where I was drawing names, and let them know I had drawn their name for the game, explained what the game entailed, and asked if there was a classmate they would like to pick to go in their place. Expecting to hear the name of one of their friends, I was surprised when the student said “No, I am going to do the relay.” A little perplexed, I asked if they were sure, and the student quickly replied, “Mrs. Laird, I still have one good leg!” and walked away. Believe me when I say I felt about an inch tall! In that one statement, “I still have one good leg,” I learned so much and was reminded how harmful it can be to have a deficit mindset. I need to remember to focus on what I do have, what I can control, and always have a positive outlook. This memory will stick with me for the rest of my teaching career and life, and perhaps I’ll find a way to turn it into a children’s story or weave it into a professional book!
During a recent Building Leadership Team meeting, we discussed ways to recognize students, specifically how we can celebrate students who show grit and perseverance. These students may not necessarily get recognized for academic performance or proficiency, deserve to be recognized for their growth and determination.
I used Canva to create the award certificates and look forward to seeing them used by teachers and staff.
Over the past few weeks I've been reading articles, books, and tweets relating Carol Dweck's work on the Growth Mindset. Growth Mindset revolves around the belief that your intelligence can be developed and honed through hard work. Meaning, you're never finished learning and there's always room for improvement.
Throughout my reading, former teachers and colleagues have come to mind. I have been blessed to have been mentored and encouraged by educators who without realizing it embodied the Growth Mindset. Whether it was my third grade teacher Mrs. Hendrickson, who told us to never give up; a college professor who constantly reminded us "If you don't know where you're going, any path will lead you there;" or colleagues throughout my six years of teaching who have allowed me to explore technology integration, action research, and instructional strategies I heard about at conferences and through my Twitter PLN, I have been able to continually grow and embrace challenges.
While it is important that I maintain and model a Growth Mindset, it is critical I pass this belief onto the students in my building. Although I'm no longer in the classroom as a teacher, as an Instructional Coach I still have a direct impact on the teaching and learning that occurs. With this in mind,I need to make sure when I'm modeling lessons and interacting with students during observations that I show I'm not always an "expert", encourage challenge, and overall promote having a Growth Mindset. I'm still working through how this will look in my position, but the first thing I plan to implement is daily motivating messages to transform a student's educational experience. I believe this will be a good first step in promoting a Growth Mindset to our students.
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