The Road to Growing Mindsets
In the two year education program at the University of Ottawa, we learn about many different topics; inclusive classrooms, lesson planning, assessments and more. However something that is promoted more so than anything else is growth mindset. This is even promoted in the schools- every school and every teacher that I have come across in Ottawa is somehow promoting growth mindset in their classrooms. The other amazing part of this is that students have slowly begun to develop this mindset, and that is, as we all know, not easy. I’ve blogged about growth mindset before, but recently I’ve come across something alarming.
I moved back home, and noticed that many of the classes and students I have been working with do not know what growth mindset is. As there is only 16 days left of school, I have made it my personal mission to reach as many students as I can before the end of the year; I want to enforce growth mindset wherever I can.
Day 1: Grade 3’s and 4’s
As we corrected math homework, I could see the frustration in students when getting the wrong answer. I stopped the corrections and asked, ‘Who knows what growth mindset is’?
“What’s that?” One student asked from the back of the room.
I responded with a question. “Why is it a good thing to make a mistake?”
More blank stares.
“When we make a mistake, our brains are actually growing and lighting up like a Christmas tree. When we make a mistake, we are actually learning something new.
Suddenly, I could see smiles around the room.
“When we make a mistake, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just a way of showing us what we need to do next time. As long as you’re trying, and putting in your best work, you will succeed”.
Math didn’t seem so bad anymore.
Day 2: Grade 5
One student gave an answer aloud, which was not correct, and it was followed by laughter and annoyance.
I took this as a teachable moment, and was so excited to share growth mindset with them. Here is what I said:
‘When I was young, and when I gave a wrong answer, some students would laugh at me. Do you know what happened? I became so afraid to give a wrong answer, so I stopped trying. I think what [student] did right there was awesome. [Student] may not have gotten the right answer, but do you know what happened? [Student] tried their very best, and just learned something new, which means their brain is growing’.
When I asked who learned about GM, they all said they had not, therefore I took the time to explain what it was.
“Who here thinks they are bad at math?”
Hands shot up.
“The fact is, no one is. If i don’t see you all again until the end of the year, you have to promise me something. Tell yourself that you are not bad at math, or anything else. You just aren’t where you want to be...yet. But if you try hard enough, and you learn from your mistakes, I promise that you will get there”.
I hope that you will follow me along on my Growing Mindsets journey, and showing students that they can accomplish their dreams, as long as they are making mistakes along the way.
This Book Has No Touch Screen
In the age of touch screen, books are becoming less and less used by children. I find this sincerely heartbreaking since books were my entire childhood. They brought me to Hogwarts, to Junie B. Jones classroom, and all the way to Wayside school. I even travelled inside a giant peach! While technology, without a doubt, has its benefits, I strongly believe we should still push for the magic of books- especially in the classroom.
Reading will forever be part of a students’ life- whether it plays a small or a big role. Regardless of how much, we should be encouraging our students to read- and that doesn’t necessarily mean all students need to be reading the same thing. Encourage picture books, novels, even comic books. Motivate students to read something that captures their attention. Having a classroom library is so important.
It Motivates the Reluctant Readers: Being surrounded by books will instill a curiosity in these students, especially if they are surrounded by a variety of books.
Accommodates the Super Readers: For those students who just simply love to read, they will succeed in a classroom that places an importance on books.
Helps Develop Literacy Skills: Being integrated in a classroom that is filled with books encourages literacy development. Teachers can focus on literacy skills and strategies, and do so even if each student has their own book. We must teach them the skills to read, and give them the books to implement those skills into.
Picture Books Are Great for All Ages: Picture books aren’t just a primary tool- they can be used in the junior levels as well. They allow us to ask questions, use our imagination, and even analyze the choice of pictures and colours being used in the illustrations. We can make inferences and look at perspectives. They have the ability to truly capture the attention of the students.
Access is Important: Some students’ access to books may only be through the classroom. They may not have the opportunity to purchase books, or go to the local library. With libraries in schools getting smaller by the minute, we want to make sure that our students have access to books in our classrooms at the very least.
Since today is World Book Day, comment your favourite book of all time below. I also encourage you to take time for yourself tonight, and go on an adventure; whether it’s to Narnia, Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, or even a Secret Garden.
So Long, Farewell...
This is a bittersweet blog that I thought I would never come. Yesterday marked my last day of being a teacher candidate, a student teacher, and a university student (until my Masters..). Trying to reflect on these past 2 years is hard- it feels like a blur. I think back to my first day at practicum; I was wide-eyed, nervous and unsure about my place in the teaching world. I think about where I am now; feeling more confident and secure, and excited to take on so many new projects in the education field. There have been countless lesson plans, late night planning and many trial and errors. Despite the hardships, I’m happy with my accomplishments. As someone who is usually shy, I started a podcast called TC2, which is something I never thought I would do. Through it, I met some amazing educators and built up my confidence when speaking to people. I became part of the VoicEd family and it has allowed me to network and create friendships. I’ve started two websites that I am so proud of, and cannot wait to see them take off.
In these past two years, I’ve had two amazing Associate Teachers who truly helped me grow and become the teacher I am now. I think back to them, and the way they taught- they are a source of inspiration for my future teaching career. I thank them for letting me be in their classrooms, making mistakes and learning as I go. With them, I developed my grand teaching voice, style and assurance that I am where I am meant to be.
I took time to reflect on all the students I met inside and outside of the classroom. I hope that I have inspired them in some way. I hope that there was something I taught, said or did that they will think back to in years to come. I hope they think, “Wow, that Ms. Karaline was great because she did ________”. I hope my student from last year remembers reading Goosebump books with me in the reading corner, or the student who asked me to wear a certain colour of eyeshadow, and I always followed through. I hope the student who wrote in a letter that I made her Grade 3 year amazing still feels that way in three, or four years from now. Maybe my Grade 3’s will remember our jello activity, or the math break box!
I’ve also met some pretty awesome teacher candidates along the way who motivate me and inspire me, and I know that they will be phenomenal teachers.
There have been times where I questioned if I was on the right path. I’ve definitely asked myself, “Should I be doing something else?” With every doubt, however, came certainty in the form of a student, a friend, a teacher or a colleague. We will all question our path, but we must remember why we set off on the journey in the first place.
TC2 will definitely continue, however with a slight name change of course. Welcome to the new and improved ‘Teacher Candid Tuesday Chats’- because these are real, truthful and straightforward chats with teachers, teacher candidates and more.
“We will all question our path, but we must remember why we set off on the journey in the first place.”
Hey TC’s- we did it.
Autism Awareness Month
This month is Autism Awareness Month, and today we should all Light it up Blue in support. I recently wrote a blog post on TeachTales as to why this month is important for me, and you can now read it here:
"This month is also very special to me. I am constantly educating myself on the subject matter and finding new strategies to bring into my classroom and work. Over the past two years, I have been working with a student with autism at a tutoring centre. I speak about this student and the strategies I have used throughout the tutoring sessions on my personal website (www.mskaraline.weebly.com). This student is so special to me; he remembers everyone's name, the school they go to and how they get to the tutoring center. I love walking in every week hearing “There’s Karaline coming from the University of Ottawa taking the 7 bus”. To me, that is the most special welcome I could ever get. He also loves to use calculators and work on math equations. We work on other things as well, but I always make time for his calculations. He’s also an AMAZING hangman player. Sometimes there will only be 1 letter, and he manages to guess the word in seconds. He places such an importance on recycling and keeping things neat and tidy. He is my student, he is my friend, and he is part of the reason why I am such a big advocate for students with autism.
I will be leaving the centre at the end of the month, and it breaks my heart to think that I will not be working with him anymore. Not to fear readers, I plan to surprise him at some point with a visit! We’ve build up this great relationship for 2 years, and I can’t imagine never seeing him again. He has come so far not only academically, but socially as well.
I encourage you to send in any websites, blogs or resources you have about autism, and I will gladly share them on the website. You can even share these resources in the community section on this website, and start up a discussion. Let’s spread awareness this April. "
Visit www.teachtales.weebly.com to share your resources, strategies and tips.
Just Keep Swimming
As graduation approaches, and the last day of classes are near, Teacher Candidates from near and far are all feeling the end of semester blues; the end of the motivation, the end of the pursuit, just… the end. However, there are many reasons why we should ‘just keep swimming’. In the event that you are part of this group, I encourage you to keep on reading.
You Actually Need These Classes: How many times have you heard someone say “this class is useless”? Plenty, I’m sure. If I can help you find one thing that you do in fact need it for, it’s to actually graduate. If you’re looking for a more in depth reason, take this time to think back on that class that you felt was useless. Find one thing that you took away from it; was it a lesson idea? Was it one piece of advice? Whatever it may be, if you found one thing that you took away from that class, then it wasn’t actually useless at all.
Enjoy the (potentially) End of University: This may be the last time a few of us are in University, and while many of us are eager to leave and start new, there are definitely going to be things that we will miss. We’ll miss the student life and our flexible schedules; we’ll miss seeing our friends everyday, or being part the University community. Although we are not-so-patiently waiting to begin our journey as teachers, take the time to enjoy this last bit of student life- it’s been a part of us for so long.
End With a Bang: Why not finish Teachers College with assignments, lesson plans and units that you’re proud of, and will most likely use in the future? What are the reasons that are stopping you from finishing with the best possible work you can give? It can be hard to stay motivated when you’re feeling like you just want out, but find that motivation inside you, and finish this year with work that you are proud to call yours.
It’s Not That Bad: It really isn’t. How many new friends have you made? How many resources have you shared and gained? How many connections have you made? Probably a lot to all three of those categories and then some. When you think back to Teachers College, there are probably aspects of it you can find to complain about, but why not think back to all those moments that made you happy to be here. When you think of it that way, I can promise you, it won’t seem so bad.
So, soon to be teachers, let’s enjoy this last bit of University life we have before we step out in the big world. Let’s enjoy the last bit of time we have with our friends, finish strong with those assignments, and just keep swimming.
What I've Been Up To...
It seems that I've been away from my website for a while, and I owe an explanation as to where I've been, and why I haven't been keeping up as well as I usually do.
I started a website called TeachTales, which is a blogging website for, and by, teachers. There isn't really set guidelines for the blog posts; I encourage teachers to write about anything that they'd like to share, whether that's a lesson, their journey, a bad day, or just to vent. My idea behind this was to create a community for teachers to network, to talk and to reach out to each other. Nobody understands us better than each other, and I think it's important to have a supportive network.
My last semester at University has been a hectic one. I've been on assignment overload and it's been difficulty maintaining two websites, a part-time job, university and applying to schools/school boards (while somehow keep a social life). However, despite the chaos, I found solace is my websites. I enjoy not only writing blog posts and sharing resources, but reading about others' journeys and stories. I connect to many of them and have loved meeting new teachers.
My goal in life is to not only be a classroom teacher, but to make a difference in the education world. I've been taking steps with my tutoring positions and my practicums in regards to my students. This time, I wanted to make a different for teachers. When I first started out at VoicEd, I began to create such an amazing PLN, network with amazing people and be part of a great education community. VoicEd inspired me to create a community for teachers, talk about their stories about their stories and share resources.
I am open to suggestions for my website and for TeachTales, so email me your ideas!
If you'd like to be a blogger for TeachTales, email me your post at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want you to be part of this teacher community. Let's make a different for each other.
My Favourite Grade 3's
On my second to last day of practicum with the Grade 3's, I was feeling very sad at the thought of leaving the classroom that I grew to be so comfortable in. I had built up such a great routine, gotten to know and love the students; it felt like a second home.
After lunch, I was told that I was not allowed to enter the classroom. As I waited, I wonder what the Grade 3's were up to. Finally, one student rushed down the hallway, tapped me on the shoulder and said "WE'RE READY".
As I walked past the decorated front door into an "empty" classroom, I was greeted by 19 voiced yelling 'SURPRISE'; it was my surprise goodbye party. The classroom was decorated with handmade decorations, and I was welcomed in with a heart-crown and plenty of handmade gifts.
One student in particular handmade a pouch with the letter 'K' on it, and inside was a book of all her favourite lessons that I had taught (I genuinely had to fight back tears on that one).
After we spoke and I shared my feelings of gratitude, I was given the special gift of that day. Inside a 'Worth It' box made by my AT, was a book. Inside the book were letters from each student in the class; they told me their favourite lesson, how they felt about me as a teacher, and their final goodbye's. This was so special for many reasons:
- It was written by them, in their own little voices
- It showed me that they really learned a lot from my unit on letter writing
- It was beyond thoughtful
I had a really, amazing, wonderful practicum experience. I think about those students a lot, too. That last surprise party was my final reassurance that I am exactly where I'm meant to be.
Practicum Coming to an End
With these last few days of practicum fast approaching, I’ve been taking the time to reflect on my 8 weeks with the Grade 3’s. I began by reflecting on my lessons, my unit plans, the way I approached a raised hand in the classroom, my wait time between questions; however, I most importantly began to reflect on all of the things the Grade 3’s have taught me.
Lessons From a Third Grader
Forgive, Forget, and Move On. No one is more compassionate and forgiving than an 8 year old. After recesses, I would hear of the arguments going on between friends. 5 minutes later they are over it and talking again as though nothing happened. What happens to us when we become adults and why can’t we be as forgiving as a third grader? I thought about how honest and open they are with each other, and how happy adults would be if we had this attitude.
Laugh… A Lot. Adults, I’ve realized how serious we can be. We are so focused on work of any kind that we forget to just stop and laugh; laugh at the made up knock-knock jokes, at the mixed up words, at the silly passage in a book. Nothing sounds better than the sound of 19 kids laughing together with their respective adults.
Don’t be Afraid and Just Do It. Kids are fearless. If they want to say something or do something, they just will. No questions asked. Why do we become so afraid to say the things we feel, and do the things that will make us smile? Third graders, for the most part, don’t have this ‘over-analyzing’ brain that over thinks every little step before it’s done. You want to paint a flower? Do it. You like knitting? Do it; and don’t be afraid to be proud of the things you enjoy.
Tell Someone You Like Them. Third graders will tell you that they like your shoes or your sweater. They will tell you that your hair looks nice today, or that you look really pretty. When you’re walking in the mall, or whether you’re at a family event; if you find something that you like in someone else… tell them. One compliment will go a long way, and make someone feel really, really good.
Pizza Makes Everything Better. In fact, I’ve been taught how pizza is actually healthy. I will argue this on any day, and I’ve got help from the third graders.
I challenge you this week to think like a third grader, and compliment one stranger that you see walking down the street.
And eat lots and lots of pizza.
Teachers are always on the go, and this isn’t something that is obvious to others that are not in the profession. I didn’t realize the extent of it until I was in it. It is also very hard to be vulnerable in this profession. Every day, you need to be in your classroom with your game face on; you need to be the sunshine in your students’ day. This can take a toll on teachers, especially when stress begins to catch up to them. You need to go in everyday with a smile on, even when you don’t truly feel that way. Teachers really are superheroes when you put it into perspective. I have previously written a blog on self-care for teachers, but that was when I didn’t actually understand what it was like to be in over your head with responsibilities. So, this is the updated version of teacher self-care tips, with realness behind it.
I encourage all teachers to participate in my #SelfCareTeacherChallenge. Pick a day, two days, whatever it is you need during the month of January, and do something for YOU. Post it on Twitter, on Instagram; anywhere. Let’s end the stigma about mental health, and idea that we cannot show vulnerability, need to constantly be in work-mode, and the belief that we don’t need a break. Show your self-care participation, and the wonders it can do.
Christmas With the Kids
Practicum has kept me extremely busy, in addition to tutoring part time. I have had no time to write, which consequently, has made me feel like something has been missing. Despite my busy schedule, I had been thinking about what I would like to write about once I had the time. Writer’s block took effect once again, especially during the Christmas festivities. However, this gave me the idea to simply write about Christmas with the kids, and to (slightly) rant about how we should all be spending Christmas with children so we can reinvent our lost holidays spirits.
I love Christmas; I truly do. I love the lights, the tree, the family time, and my tradition of watching A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. Over the years, I felt a lost sense of excitement about Christmas. I would think back to when I was a child, and that magical feeling on Christmas morning that could not be explained through words because it was truly magic. What happens to us? Why do we lose the magic?
A week before the Christmas break, all of the students were in Christmas mode. Christmas art activities, Christmas stories, a Christmas show; the hallways were filled with real Christmas spirit. Children from 4 years old to 12 were all equally excited about Santa coming to town, whether they believed or not. Even if they were ‘too cool’ to believe, deep down, they wanted to wait up at night to see Ol’ Saint Nick appear near their decorated tree. In between the hustle and bustle of putting sparkles on ornaments and practicing the dance to Jingle Bell Rock, I took time to appreciate the excitement over Christmas. I spent a week discussing the arrival of Santa, the nice and naughty list, the religious meaning behind Christmas, and the happiness over gingerbread house making with parents. Every day, I walked into a winter wonderland. Through this, I began to feel a small spark of that lost holiday spirit. I even found myself hoping that maybe, just maybe, I’d catch Santa Claus at my tree on Christmas Eve.
What do I owe this spark to? The children. They motivated me to feel that excitement again. They encouraged me to let my imagination run wild. They allowed me to feel that Christmas anticipation that I hadn’t felt in years. On Christmas Day, when my spark began to dull, and the magic felt like it was wearing out, I thought back to that Christmas-filled week; I thought about the children, and their eagerness. When Dr. Seuss said the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes too big, I finally knew what that felt like. I pushed aside any ‘adult-y’ way of thinking, and let the spark ignite.
Spend your December with children. They are the only ones who know how to truly celebrate the magic of Christmas. They are the ones who will ignite your spark, and allow you to feel like a child again. ‘May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve’. You might be pleasantly surprised.