Saturday, 10 November 2012

Is this sustainable?

So I was down with the flu suddenly on Thursday night, meaning I could not be a school for a critical team meeting for one of my students.  I called the inclusive team to let them know I could not be at school.  The teacher knew I would not be able to stand in for her as earlier planned.  So I worried how the meeting would go down. . .

Why did I worry??? Everything went well. Why? Because we have established a home-school TEAM. We have worked for the last two years to create a space for parents, teachers and therapists to work together to create a learning environment for this youngster (who, by the way, is blossoming. . . ).  I know that in order to have an inclusive culture in a school, it can't all be about me "doing" inclusion.  It has to be about a team willing to work with parents and therapists to create the ideal learning environment for all students. We are getting there. . .

On Monday we embark on a new section of our journey. . . we are all presenting our PD day.  We are looking at the book, "Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age" by David Rose and Anne Meyer.  Rather than me presenting the book, teachers will present a chapter in partners or on their own.  In the spirit of Universal Design for Learning, the book is presented in three formats: summary, shortened with many links or the full chapter.  It was interesting to note that some teachers needed the actual book to read to meet their needs (that is a note to remember for the PD day to remind us about multiple representations). 
I am excited that we will all be in charge of our learning regarding inclusion.  Since this has been such scary territory for our teachers, I am hoping that by learning together, we will come to a deeper understanding of true inclusion and why it is important to become an inclusive school that welcomes all students to learn.  After all, the expectation was there that I should provide them with the means that they needed in order to learn! More about the PD day next post.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Fixed or Growth Mindset?

Carol Dweck's work on Mindset gave us a great deal of food for thought at our last staff meeting. We started by looking at the David Suzuki video, Changing Your Mind:
After watching a portion of the video (it is 44 minutes long but fabulous if you choose to watch the whole thing!), we learned fixed mindset teachers will limit what they think is possible.  They will ensure the status quo continues.  Their mindset determines how they respond to the world around them.  They limit improvement.  They believe external factors are the reason kids don't learn in their classroom.  They have autonomy to make all educational decisions for their students.  They talk about "my" students and "your" students.  They ask "why don't you just leave me alone to teach?"  They add "it is my job to teach and the students' job to learn."  They think the purpose of the school is to teach the curriculum and the results they get in the classroom are a result of the students' wishes to learn or not.  You may have heard a fixed mindset teacher say, "I don't need to improve my practice - the students need to pay attention."  OR " The majority of my students pass the provincial achievement test, so I must be doing a good job."  OR "These kids just don't have the capacity to do this work." And finally, "A professional learning community is just the latest fad and will be gone soon."  (ps. I am still here and so is our journey to becoming a true PLC!)
NOW, on the other hand, a growth mindset teacher is resilient and determined that his/her students will succeed.  They set high expectations for their students and give them the means to reach these expectations.  They don't judge their students and while they may not love every child (what does that mean anyway?), they still care about each and every child in the class.  Growth mindset teachers are fascinated with the process of learning.  They understand that all things that are hard can be accomplished with effort (both for their students and themselves).  They view failure as an opportunity to learn. They believe new realities are very possible for themselves and their students.  They believe their actions hold the key to improved students results  (borrowed from a presentation by Greg Kushnir, principal for Edmonton Public).
What a difference.  This gave all staff food for thought as I asked, "Which kind of a teacher are you?"  I realize at some time we may think in a fixed mindset way, but we have to work at always coming at problems from a growth mindset.  Particularly when talking about our students, it is imperative that we come from a growth mindset.  When you pinpoint your thinking about students with exceptional needs, you HAVE to come from a growth mindset or they will not grow.  As teachers, we have to get past our fear of failure if we want our students to venture out and try new things; if we want our students with special needs to be determined when working at something new.
Just today one of our students on the Autism Spectrum asked, "Where?"  Now that does not seem like much, but he does not have a lot of verbal language (really, just a little bit at this time) and we have been fortunate enough to work with him for the past two months.  That simple question of where brought shivers to my soul.  Just the other day, he explained using signs, the next three things he was going to do: bathroom, work and then computer.  WOW!! Where will this little one soar?  Imagine how far he will go in the year??  We have no idea at this moment, but we do know that with a growth mindset and determination, everything is possible! I wish I had a crystal ball to look ahead but I will be satisfied to sit and imagine the possibilities for him and be soooo excited! 
If our school becomes filled with people who have a growth mindset and we toss the old fixed mindset in a dusty, back closet never to be found again, our students will finally have access to an equitable education that will serve every single student where he/she is at... and then, the possibilities for growth are truly endless. 
As we are a Leader in Me school and working to become a true PLC, we finished our staff meeting by setting a school wide goal of improved reading; growth by at least one year for all students.  Is that scary for us? Yes, because now it is written down.  It is recorded and we have to do it. . . Our first task is to figure out how every single student can take part in guided reading daily.  A big job to figure out for sure, but the pay off is tremendous.  Our students will grow and we WILL see some amazing results. 
If you are reading this, what kind of mindset is yours?  What kind of mindset prevails in your classroom? Your school? Not sure, check out this online quiz to give you a quick idea of what you need to do to become a growth mindset teacher, or colleague, or parent, or spouse, or partner!