Thursday, September 19, 2013

Too Much Passion?!?!

Today the words, "you can overdo your passion," was verbalized out loud. It was a response to a conversation on doing what you do well, love and how 'that thing' influences everything you do. Sir Ken Robinson calls it the 'Element'.

My initial thoughts were to not respond but analyze the statement in context to the prior comments. Maybe, I missed the point or misunderstood the intended meaning. But, being spontaneous when I hear words of criticism, I responded with, "my passion cannot be directed or weighed by someone who doesn't share or understand what I find most engaging." In other words, what is right for me might not be right for you, but best believe that what is right for you may not be right for me. The younger generation would say, "you do you and let me do me."

I suppose it is human to judge and compare ones self to others. But why not direct your focus on encouraging others to use their gifts and passions to impact a life or change the world? Who knows, your positive words and actions might be the catalyst to someone achieving greatly. Besides, who are you to belittle or diminish anyone's gift or passion?

I do not believe you can not overdo something that you have an aptitude and love for. And in the words of Brene Brown, "It's Not the Critic Who Counts." Did George Washington have too much passion when he revolted against the perceived oppressor? What about Harriet Tubman? Did she have too much passion when she helped slaves attain their freedom?

What if Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton never felt strongly about women's rights? Would women be voting today? Imagine Martin Luther King, Jr. uninterested in civil rights and equality....the Blessed Mother Teresa not dedicated to the poor...Bill Gates discouraged from spending time learning to code?

Too much passion? No! The above people changed the world because of their passion. Passion is putting more work into something than what may required to achieve it. It is not just enthusiasm or excitement, but ambition that manifest into action. It is when you put your heart, mind, body and soul into something to make it a reality. So...

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If you are a critic...you don't matter.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

There's No Such Thing as an Over Achiever

There is no such thing as an over achiever... just people who have low expectations of others.

 "You are such an over achiever."  Have you ever been told that you are an over achiever?  I have been told this message from my mother and a supervisor in the past year.  Once I held this statement as a way saying I was doing a good job. I smiled with pride that maybe I impressed someone with my ability. But lately I have been rethinking the term over achiever.

I believe in putting forth effort.  Doing things to the best of your ability.  Being a role model for others. Excelling in matters that you are passionately about. Continuing professional development without employee mandate, but for the sake of self enlightenment. I sincerely want to improve on today for the betterment of tomorrow.  I want to grow!

Is that over achieving?  I don't think so! The above statements are things we want to see ALL of our students doing in their academic lives daily.  We should expect ALL of our students to exceed expectations.

I succeed because I seek different paths to grow.  I am willing to take risks and fail learning if necessary. I am passionate and knowledgeable about the opportunities I pursue. So call me me an over achiever and I'll ask, "why do you hold such low expectations for me."

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Loving #EDUC115N- Give the Gift of a Growth Mindset

A friend recommended an online course being hosted by Stanford University on how to learn math. She called it a MOOC. I was skeptical. I have seen the acronym many times before, but never once stopped to decode the meaning. And besides, I am a little insecure about my own math skills. Well, a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. MOOC's are online courses aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. The letters in the acronym are negotiable. (check out the poster below) And since I teach math to elementary level students, I thought this would be a great professional development opportunity for my summer break, as well as an opportunity to improve my own mathematical thinking. It would be a chance to mingle with educators and parents from all over the world in which I could interact with on a subject area most believe you have to be smart to understand.

Well, there are well over three thousand people enrolled. So, interacting is an understatement. It is more like an online PTA (Parent and Teacher Association) meeting. And to think I thought the course would teach me new teaching strategies for math instruction. But, it turns out to be so much more than that. This MOOC is all about how math is vilified as a subject that only a few lucky mathematical inclined individuals succeed in. We are learning how a fixed mindset (mostly likely learned from parents, media, and school) is the reason why many students struggle with math.
A fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset could very well be the difference between a great learner and a struggling learner. Attitude matters. How we cultivate healthy academic attitudes is important.
Well, the post is not about MOOC's but about how this particular course is discussing hw we can cultivate a growth mindset in all our students. First, a fixed mindset is not just what low performing students have. Our high performers can also suffer from a fixed mindset. See, once anyone believes that they are simply born academically challenged or gifted, they might be in danger of a fixed mindset. Neither of the above two groups can handle new challenges that may be difficulty or present failure.
But, a growth mindset, allows for students to embrace change as an opportunity to grow and develop new skills. They are not fearful of the unknown, but curious about the what ifs. They are more open to different ways of thinking. Problem solving is a way of finding solutions, not just an answer to a math problem. Students with a growth mindset are willing to fail in order to learn.
So, what can be done to foster a growth mindset? Glad you asked. Stop making negative statements about your own abilities. Students internalize those statements and make them their own. Now they are full of self doubt and fear failure. Example: My mom says she was never good at math, so I will not be good at math. Now the student does not expect success but failure. Effort in achieving is non-existent. Why try. I was born the way.
On the opposite spectrum, stop telling kids how smart they are, and start praises them for their great effort. When high performers are accustomed to succeeding in many areas of their life and finally face failure or a road block (and we all know they will because life has a way of happening to us all), they do not have the skills to cope and now see themselves as failures. In their minds they have never failed or struggled before, so what is different now. They believe it should come easy for them.

So, you are ready to learn how to foster a growth mindset? You can join this MOOC hosted by Stanford University on OpenEdX called How to Learn Math or visit the Mindset Works website for insight. This is a real way to experience a MOOC and learn more about the research conducted on a growth mindset and it affects student learning outcomes.
So, be cautious of your words and practice a growth mindset in all areas of your life. Be a positive model and others will follow.