Sunday, August 28, 2016

As we enter into our final week before the Labor Day holiday, I feel inclined to tell you about.... my pants. Yep. My white pants. I'm not gonna lie... I've never been more thankful to have a nationally accepted fashion guideline as "don't wear white pants after Labor Day."

After I got back into my pre-pregnancy size clothes earlier this Spring, I felt like I should treat myself with a small shopping trip. My twin sister had been raving about a pair of yellow pants she purchased and I thought, "umm...HECK NO! Not for this girl! My wardrobe consists of black, gray, and khaki, so bold colors are definitely out." Then I found myself in TJ Maxx staring at a pair of white pants. OKAY! I'LL TRY THEM ON!! (This was the first step of my growth mindset kicking in, for the record.) I tried them, I liked them, I bought them, then attempted to wear them. I have NEVER experienced as much anxiety in my life as that day in May when I wore my white pants for the first time. Every single marker, condiment bottle, cap-less pen, person eating lunch might as well have been aiming a can of spray paint at me that day!!!! Why do people DO this to themselves!? I couldn't handle it. I swore these things were going to Goodwill the minute they came out of the dryer! But I kind of liked the way they looked. And I did get a few compliments on them. I had to figure out a way to make these things work... yes, fully enact my growth mindset and take ownership for learning how to wear these things without anxiety creeping in.

While awkward, yes, this day of living in fear reminded me a lot of how your students might feel in your classes. Anxious of how others might view their learning abilities. Nervous that any new piece of information coming their way will just show up as a big "stain on their pants" that they don't know what to do with or how to make it blend in to the rest of what they know or are trying to learn. And your students don't HAVE a labor day rule to look forward to as a mental break in whatever might be causing them anxiety. WE HAVE TO HELP THEM! We have to make the markers, condiment bottles, cap-less pens, etc. look like stain removing pens, not spray paint!!! While you develop your own means for helping students establish a growth mindset and take ownership over their learning, let me get you started with a few things:

  • Here's a really great activity for confronting and teaching students how to struggle.
  • Engage students with written reflections, self-assessments, discussions or individual conferences regarding how they build confidence or find personal relevance in their tasks.
  • Allow them to experience a safe dose of failure and debrief how they overcame the struggle.
  • Spend time developing reflective learners in your classroom with some of these tips (for more traditional assessment items).

If we want students to become agents for their own learning (grow from setbacks, build confidence, seek feedback, actively participate, etc...) we have become proactive instead of reactive for those learning moments which may cause them anxiety and in turn, cause them to shut down from gaining new knowledge and skills. If we expect students to know how to take ownership over their own learning and maintain a growth mindset, we have already failed them. You would never assess a student on their ability to solve a single-variable equation without first teaching/supporting them in learning this new skill, so why do we assess them for knowing how to own their own learning if we aren't teaching it first?!

Yes, I did wear those white pants again...four times to be exact. I had to become proactive (packing a stain remover pen and an extra pair of pants each time I wore them) instead of cautiously awaiting to react. I have one more week to wear my "growth mindset pants" before the fashion police start to come after me, so I will consider this week my week of summative assessment!

Peace, love, and #thestruggleisreal ,

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