Day 18 (of 184) change/growth matters aka i wish i knew then what i know now
I was able to tweet this last night:
5 dumb things one educator used to think but doesnt anymore wapo.st/1LW6h4A
Interesting article about change. Growth mindsets matter!
A great reflection article by Michael Langdon (an assistant principal in Pennsylvania middle school) on what he used to think about:
- School is your job.
2. Algebra teaches you to think differently.
3. Homework teaches you to how to do things you don’t want to do.
4. Strict deadlines are teaching accountability and responsibility.
5. Difficult/strict teachers help you learn how to deal with those sorts of people.
Sentiments many in education would either agree with (or probably agree with at least at some point in their career – I certainly did). Here is how my thinking has changed over the years (and will continue to change) on these topics and a couple more:
- School is much more than a ‘job’. I will even now sometimes concepts of school being ‘like a job’ with teachers being similar to ‘the boss’ (especially for concrete yes/no learners). But in my heart, it is a place to explore. To experiment. To make mistakes. To take part in a learning journey and learn skills and strategies that will help you identify what tasks require extrinsic rewards and what passions only require intrinsic satisfaction!
2. Algebra – and so much of math: once upon a time “a different way of thinking” – I was able to wrap my head around algebra, but I missed the right turn when calculus was being introduced. Now I see math differently – not the lock/step approach chapter-by-chapter approach that I was taught – but a mix of beautiful concepts. While there are still ‘different streams’ of math approaches, I feel that “we” need to do a better job building up confidence in numeracy at young ages and see it as something personal & sometimes even fun – more like how we approach reading & writing….differentiate, enjoy it, move at ‘your’ pace (as much as possible) – and develop school-wide “love of mathing”!
3. Homework. Sigh. Never a big fan – as a student, it was easy for me – but very difficult for many of my friends….not because of ability, but because of ‘extra responsibilities’ after school. So…much like the reading gap (kids who read daily from early years acquiring many more words than non-reading households) the homework gap helped strong students reinforce skills that they didn’t need reinforcing (and perfection-oriented learners to add anxiety) and the ones without the ‘right supports’ at home to fall further behind – especially when homework counted a lot towards final achievement grades. Is there a purpose for homework? Sure. Reinforcement for ‘the middle group’ is great. Working on skills for fluency (which is why I always encourage nightly reading, nightly math (though often promoted through game-play) and …. well the 3rd would often change – sometimes writing, but ‘daily journaling’ killed the joy of writing for me for a number of years (ironic since now I am blogging each day of learning….) and some ‘special projects’ that would often need family support.
4. “Strict Deadline” are few and far between. I know because I’ve seen many of my colleagues request (and get) extensions for report cards. Many deadlines are artificial (save for ‘the last day of school’). When chaos or crisis hits homes, extensions are often used – and as my school has explored eportfolios instead of report cards, one of the biggest benefits I have seen is that the “learning takes as long as it takes” – if a unit is going long, there is no ‘final date to have marks in’ – we don’t need to crunch learning into a compact hour-by-hour ‘check off the learning outcomes” approach. Having deadlines and helping students work towards it to learn about time management is of course important – but I don’t believe it should punish learners.
5. Re. “working with difficult teachers” – I believe that we won’t always get along with everybody – and I’m okay with that. But I also value relationship building above all else. I don’t think my feelings on this have changed much over the years – some teachers that other students loved, I didn’t care much for and vice versa. But the key reflection I had was that many of those ‘other students’ had better relationships with their teachers than I had. Ya can’t be friends with everyone, but ya can be friendly!
- Noise: quiet classrooms vs quiet zones. I know some people like their classrooms to be quiet. I know some who like the classrooms louder. I’m always more nervous about quiet classrooms than louder ones….but I also agree that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. My thoughts have changed that noise can be valuable – in gym some background music can help muffle the squeaks and squeals of runners and voices. in the classroom, what is quiet for some is still loud for others (ie I have tinitis, a constant ringing in the ears – music helps make that disappear for awhile). I have shifted to trying to create “sound zones” especially for learning commons areas. I try to have spaces that can be a bit louder (often with music) space where conversations can occur and spots where it is quiet to try to allow enough choice for students to be in environments that work for them.
- Anxiety: used to be that interventions like the “Friends for Life” program were enough. I had a lot of ‘anxious’ learners come to my room and leave with a bigger set of skills and strategies (that I was able to see them use in later years). But now I see it as a bigger-system issue. Schools and districts and even communities/governments need to have a plan of supporting anxiety – it’s not going away by itself…and if it’s ignored, it only worsens.
- Standardized Tests: I keep flip flopping about them. I like that they are norm referenced. I hate that they are ‘one style of assessment’. I like that they can give good information (especially for learning challenges/giftedness/mental wellness). I hate that we try to compare apples with oranges with zucchini.
- My own thinking. I have had a lot of personal opinions change on controversial topics. In part through education, experience, exposure and reflection. I don’t mind saying “here is my opinion – but I might be wrong about this one” – as I have in the past. And indeed I have changed my opinions. That’s the value of having a method of reflection (back to the daily-ish journal that I loved then hated and now love again) – as we model life long learning, the more we know, the more we can do, and the more we can improve.
Growth mindsets. It means that change is good and that a response at one point of time can be different later. I’m wondering what I’ll be thinking in another decade! Great book connection for growth mindsets is Carol Dwek’s Mindset