Believe in the Possibilities for Learning

We all know about the power of the ‘Growth Mindset’ by now and (hopefully) we all buy into the idea that it’s possible for anyone to learn.  I read a very interesting blog post from the Mindshift organization (started, in part, by NPR) recently about what happens when we “believe in the possibilities” of what teaching and learning can really do.

I think you should take the time to read this blog post so I’ll try to stay as brief as possible but I’d like to highlight some of the main points as a preview:

  • The placebo effect is real and it applies to learning as well.  “When students are informed that it’s possible to improve their IQ, they respond by improving their IQ.”
  • Science shows us that the learning culture can have permanent effects on the brain.  Is the culture in your room as positive as you believe it to be?  Do you have a ‘favorite’ class?  (They know it if you do…and your least favorite class is also aware of their standing!)
  • Building positive relationships is as important as anything and they need to be sincere!  “Inquiry and innovation rely on a high-functioning brain activated by care and acceptance.”
  • Going back to last week’s discussion, the academic skills that we want our students to learn are highly linked to the character traits we also desire…how do we successfully teach those character strengths?

When we did our Strengths Finder work with the Gotuacos it became apparent that many of us have the “Learner” theme in our top five.  I don’t think that it takes a lot of convincing for any of you to believe that learning and growing are possible.  However, I know that the High School recently did a similar strengths activity (the student version of what we did).  It was interesting/sad/scary to hear one high school teacher bemoan the fact that NONE of her advisory students showed the “Learner” theme in their top five.  So for all of us who are energized and excited by the journey of discovery and learning we need to keep in mind that there a lot of students who don’t have this natural tendency…what can we do to foster curiosity and the desire to learn?

Strengths Quest Professional Development

Happy American Thanksgiving everyone!  It would be remiss of me not to at least give a moment of thanks to each and every one of you for all that you do for our kids, “Thank you!”  Being the “communicator” that I am, I wanted to make sure I said that before I got off and rambling on something else…

The last couple days have been a wonderful opportunity for us to look a little deeper at ourselves and think about how we can use what is already within us to be better teachers.  Going through the Strengths Finder activities yesterday really helped me to begin thinking about how my strengths can be maximized to make me a better educator and leader.  Another aspect that was pointed out a few times are the dynamics of how different people and teams work together based on the combinations of strengths within the group.  Understanding the 34 different strength themes is a very important step toward building a strong collaborative environment.  Also, so is knowing each others strengths.  To that end, I’ve followed the example of a friend of mine from SAS (Singapore) and added my five strongest themes to my email signature.  In so doing, I’m hoping to inspire some of you to do the same.  Now that we all have this common context, it seems only logical that we use it to maximize the strengths of the whole team, not just ourselves!  Feel free to stop and modify your signature now 🙂

The work that we do together on a daily basis is far too important to do alone.  Looking around the stage yesterday and contemplating all of the different strengths we have as a collective group is astonishing.  The sheer wealth of knowledge and experience we had in that room could, combined, be strong enough to move mountains.  As a school we already do a very good job of collaborating and working together.  Deliberately focusing on our strengths will only lead to better things down the road!!  I’m a big sports fan and I love sports analogies despite the fact that so many of them sound cliché.  However, I’m going to use one…even the best players in the history of team sports couldn’t do it alone…Michael Jordan, Pele, Mia Hamm, Jerry Rice, or Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t have stood a chance without the help and support of their teammates.  Take a second and close your eyes, think about the stage on Thursday afternoon…there were a lot of amazing minds up there, feel free to engage with as many of those as possible!!

It’s very inspiring to sit along side all of you and think about how much collective intelligence is in the room, thank you!  It’s also inspiring to think about all the potential in the world…you futurists know what I’m talking about…so take a few minutes to play with this super cool toy from the BBC.  It’s a customizable look at how the Earth has changed since you were born and a fun way to think about all that has happened around you so far during your life.  I’m only 17 years old on Mars, my heart has beat 1 billion times already in my life, there have been 385 major earthquakes since I was born, and the average life expectancy in the world has increased 7.5 years (Earth years) in my life time…what about you?