Sunday, 4 March 2018

Growth Mindset in the Early Years Part 2!


This took me longer than anticipated to get up... mostly because I tried to be clever and schedule the post to go up on a day when I had a meeting... and I scheduled it for the wrong month. 

Oops. Good thing I have a growth mindset!

So my oopsie has inspired me to make my new QR Code freebie that was supposed to debut in this post a free giveaway for everyone who signs up to my blog.... forever! There should be a pop up box appearing on your screen right!

I'm not putting this one on TPT, it's staying exclusive.  Consider it a permanent reward to celebrate a mistake, and your own patience in waiting for it!  

In all seriousness, this is an area that I am very passionate about, and I am continually seeing the need for explicit teaching of how your attitude impacts on your success, that mistakes are critical to learning, and that YET is powerful!  Increasingly, I am hearing from other teachers that it seems to be a bigger issue each year. Indeed, I am experiencing it too. Children with little to no resilience, lacking independence, extreme perfectionism, highly anxious (sometimes even medicated!) and very little skill to deal with a challenge, low persistence, no grit, or problem solving ability. These kids look to be rescued as soon as any roadblock appears in their way. 

I keep remembering this video, and I can't help but wonder if there will soon be a generation of adults that are legitimately stuck on the escalator! It's hilarious to watch... but if you think about it enough it is actually a bit scary! 

Increasingly each year, I am seeing fixed mindset behaviours and self talk in my little kiddos. They will walk across the room to tell me they haven't got a pencil, or a rubber, when there is a container full of them on the middle of their table. No one handed it to them, so therefore it is a problem requiring an adult to solve! Next time, it's because they don't have a chair... I have more chairs than students, so this should never be a problem!  Some children take a whole term to remember what group they are in. I can send all my groups to their activities, one at a time, and surely there will be a few children on the mat when I'm done. Because I didn't give them a personal request. Some children will try and hand me things or show me things and wont even speak. They are used to grown ups speaking for them. 

No wonder they appeal to be rescued. They need rescuing. So they don't end up stuck on the escalator. Talking about this with other educators, it can seem like an overwhelming mountain of insurmountable problems. My friend, let me tell you there is definately some purposeful, dedicated hard work in our future... but it's achievable. It is a challenge... and we ENJOY a challenge, right!?

By engaging in these challenges, we can rescue these kids. By teaching them to problem solve. To change their thinking. To become a victor, not a victim. To show *gasp* initiative! It's not easy, but it sure beats doing talking, thinking and living for them! 

One of the keys to this is working in partnership with parents. I have a great video I love to share with our parents on the brain... it is inspirational every time I watch it. Our brains are AMAZING. Have a look for yourself! 

This video is from here and does not belong to me. 

Another critical step is full, complete, immersion. Constant thinking out loud to model problem solving strategies, engaging other children to help each other solve problems together. I ask a bazillion questions instead of feeding them suggestions. Almost EVERY picture book I use for most of the year for ANY subject is analysed through the lens of growth vs. fixed mindset. This week we even used Fox in Socks!  I plan for it. 

We learn about how our brain makes strong connections, and we learn about making mistakes to learn. Persevering through a challenge. Practicing the hard things. Not giving up.  The impact of our self talk on our neural pathways (this was an eye opener for me too!). Two of my favourite activities we did this month was to make model brains showing our connections and our glitter bottles. I've heard them called many different things (settle your glitter bottles, calm bottles, sensory bottles.... we used to use them for time out timers with my youngest son many years ago and just called them 'shoosh bottles') but the teaching that goes with it is powerful regardless of what you call it! 

I love hoe everyone of them is unique. Some are wild with neurons sticking out every which way, and then the one in the top right is soooo perfectly neat and tidy haha.  But these lovely brains, and the glittery bottles, are both learning experiences that help cement (okay, I know clay isn't exactly cement... but it works!) the learning behind the activity, and also becomes an engagement point with parents when the kids take them home! 

I make mistakes. On purpose. Sometimes they're legit. Like two weeks ago when I thought we had to spend the morning engaging in outdoor learning due to some construction occuring in the classroom. Wrong date. Oh well.  When I mess up (on purpose or otherwise) I do one of two things. 
a) I ask the question. What now? Time to give up? Decide I'm useless and sulk? What should I do about this?

b) Overreact. Completely and utterly over the top. Sometimes I'll stomp my feet. Sometimes I'll throw my head back and wail like someone just ran over my dog. (I don't actually have a dog- so all you dog loving teacher's out there don't need to worry!) I'll have a full blown tantrum. 

Whenever I go for b) the kids look at me like I just suggest we might harvest alien toes. "What ARE you doing? " they will ask. So I tell them. I messed up. The world is ending. I'm no good at anything, I have no friends and nothing will ever get better. I'm a horrible teacher and should just go home.

Then they laugh. Because my behaviour seems as preposterous to them as the escalator video does to us. Except they both have the sting of truth hidden underneath. It doesn't take long for them to start telling me all the answers to a) when I start b), before I even ask the questions. You can't have great big tanties every day though! After they start getting the hang of it, I stop doing it and only pull it out when we need the reminder (normally later in the year when tensions start running high).

It can be exhausting. But in a few months, the difference in the kids lives is so huge. It is more than worth the effort. If enough of us work on this together, these kids will be able to achieve anything they set their minds to. They just need to be shown the way to learn and grow. Isn't that what we're here for? We can overcome this societal challenge if we apply a little growth mindset to our own worlds!

Stay tuned for my next post- a roundup of my favourite picture books to use to teach growth mindset with the young ones! 

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