Mental health in students is an extremely important topic all teachers and educators should be discussing. One way of integrating positive mental health and well-being is through the growth mindset. During my practicum, my associate teacher and myself often make it a point to tell the students that making mistakes is part of learning, and it is what makes their brains grow. Through this, as Carney, Muskoka and Parr suggest, we are creating a classroom environment that supports socio-emotional learning. Allowing students to make mistakes, and create a classroom community, in which they are not afraid to do this, allows them to firstly manage their emotions, and secondly create positive school goals.
Fogerty explains that we should not shelter children from challenges, but instead we need to believe in their potential. During my practicum this year, there is ample opportunity for growth through challenges during their school day. Every student has the chance to try out different activities and lessons, and nothing is made with the assumption that a student may not be able to complete it. All lessons and activities are made with the belief that they can.
One strategy that I will incorporate into my practice is incorporating yoga into their gym routine. I want to integrate a calming, mindful routine and yoga for kids is very helpful. There are also a lot of online applications and tools dedicated to yoga for kids that are effective and easy to use. The second strategy I want to integrate is integrating DPA’s in the classroom at least once a week. When gym is not in the daily schedule, especially with younger students, they may need to exert energy. Lastly, I feel that instilling a growth mindset is something that is done not in a single lesson, but over a period of time. It is a mindset that may not come easy to some students, and will take time to absorb. History has shown us that schooling (amongst other factors) has led a lot of us to have a static mindset. Changing this way of thinking is extremely difficult, but something I believe to be worthwhile. We should be encouraging our students to overcome challenges and face them head on, all whilst not being afraid to make mistakes in the process, as mistakes are part of the process, not the problem. Strategies in regards to instilling this mindset are; having anchor charts that show and portray the growth mindset. Also, by simply repeating to students the idea of growth mindset, eventually, it may begin to set in. Lastly, model the growth mindset. If there is a question that I do not know the answer to, I am not afraid to tell my students that I don’t know the answer, but we can find it together. As a teacher, we should not be afraid to make mistakes either, seeing as this is something we want to impart on our students.
As a teacher candidate, it is important to be observant during your first few days of practicum, and begin to create goals that you want to accomplish throughout your time with your placement class and school. I am currently placed at Convent Glen Catholic School in a Grade 3 classroom. I initially went into practicum with a list of goals in mind that I thought I wanted to set. However, after a few days of observation, my goals soon changed.
Originally, I had set goals for myself. These goals involved teaching a certain way, speaking a certain way; goals that we’re essentially all about me. These goals changed. I am placed with an amazing Associate Teacher whom I cannot wait to learn from. I love her teaching style and the way she manages a classroom. You can truly see her passion for teaching, and in this, I began to create goals that we’re centered on the students. I believe that good things come in three’s; therefore I have set three goals for myself.
Goal #1: Create lessons that involve cooperative learning. I believe when students, or anyone for that matter, work together as a team, ideas and motivation flows freely. It can be intimidating when faced with a new problem or topic to come up with ideas independently. When paired with a partner or in small groups, there is the possibility of cooperative learning, divergent thinking, and even gaining experience in teamwork.
Goal #2: “All inquiry learning is messy, but messiness is part of the transformation” (An elementary principal). An important part of teaching is getting a sense of what is working for our students, and what is not. A simple and great way to figure this out is by asking the students themselves. I want to create an atmosphere in which students are comfortable having a conversation about their learning. What part of what I am teaching is working for them, and what part is not? What part of their experience is working for them, and what is not? The only way we can gain insight into their experiences and continue to help them, is by asking them.
Goal #3: Establish trust. For the first few months, as a teacher candidate, I am only at my placement school once a week. Since I do not see the students every day, it may take longer to establish a trusted relationship with them. I strongly believe that in order to teach, inspire and motivate, we must begin with trust. I want my students to know that I am here to help them succeed and learn. I want my students to know that I believe as a team, we can not only gain new knowledge, but also make school something they look forward to every morning.
I have done readings from “Spiral of Inquiry” and “Invite! Excite! Ignite!” “Spiral of Inquiry” states that we need to focus on one or two areas that we want to improve. This resonates with my goal setting process. I have selected (in this case more than two) a few areas that I want to work on. It is not realistic to set a list of 10 goals, however by setting 3, I can work towards them and set realistic expectations. The central questions of focusing are “what is going on for our learners” and “how do we know”. My second goal involves just that; asking the students what is working for them, and what is not. The only way this focused goal will work is if I collect feedback from my students and move forward.
The second reading talked about less is more: less teaching, and more learning through discovery learning (Fogarty, 2016). I am a firm believer and advocate for hands-on learning. I feel that if students are in charge of their own learning, they will feel a sense of independence, accomplishment and responsibility. When we let students take the lead, ask questions and go off on their own adventures, they are able to make connections from what they are learning in school to the real world. Student-centered learning will lead to more questions being asked, and more discoveries being made.