Last week, Larry Ferlazzo reblogged a photograph of a growth-mindset chart he came across on Twitter. I liked so much that I decided to reformat it into a printable version. To save, simply right click on the image and "save as."
Test anxiety needs no formal introduction. Most of us have experienced it—and if you haven’t, you’ve at least seen the crippling affect it can have on students’ self-esteem and performance.
We live in an era of high-stakes testing and while we do believe that we have a responsibility to equip students with strategies to help them succeed on these tests, we also believe it is equally important to put these exams into perspective.
This Test Does Not Define You is one video we always show students in the weeks preceding big exams. Not only does it do a nice job of dispelling a few myths about testing, it also sends them an important message: They are not defined by test results! The video also highlights some simple research-based activities that reduce test-anxiety.
We’ve been following Dr. Robyn Jackson for a couple years now. For those of you who are not familiar with Jackson, she is a former master teacher and principal who has published several books including Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Never Underestimate Your Teachers. We recently read one of Jackson’s blog entries, “Five of the Biggest Mistakes I Made as a New Teacher,” and liked it so much that we wanted to share it with our own readers.
Five of the Biggest Mistakes I Made as a New Teacher
Mistake #1: I took everything personally
If the students disobeyed me, I got angry at them. If they didn’t do their work, I took it as a personal affront. Every time they put their heads down or didn’t turn in their homework, I was personally offended. The problem with taking things personally is that it usually leads to blaming the students. The moment I realized that it wasn’t about me, I was able to shift my focus from how offended I was to what I needed to do to help my students make better decisions the next time. When I stopped taking personal offense at everything my students did (or didn’t do) I was able to focus on how I could best respect, honor, appreciate, and capitalize on the currencies they brought to the classroom.
Mistake #2: I avoided dealing with parents
When parents contacted me, I used to cringe. Usually, they were not calling with good news. I did everything I could to avoid dealing with them. By seeing them as an adversary, or at least a nuisance I wanted to avoid, I created more problems with parents than I solved. Once I learned to see parents as my partners, to keep them informed about what was going on in my class, and to bring them into the loop early in the process, I found that parents were my best allies. As a result, even when we disagreed on a course of action for their child, we were more likely to work out a plan that we could both support.
Mistake #3: I waited until students were failing to intervene
I was always surprised at interim time that certain students were failing. What made it even worse was that by the time I sent out interims, there was really little students could do to redeem their grades before the end of the marking period. It wasn’t until I created a proactive intervention plan that forced me to systematically look at student performance that I started to notice the moment students began to fail and plan in advance what I would do to get them back on track. Then, I could intervene before they got so far in the hole that they could not possibly ever get out.
Mistake #4: I was afraid to make mistakes
I thought that as the teacher, I always had to be right. I worked really hard at being the smartest person in the room. When my students asked me a question for which I had no answer, I’d make one up. If I made a mistake, I would cover it up. Only when I gave myself permission to be, well, human, did my teaching get really good. When I let my students see me make mistakes, admit them, and then take steps to correct them, it made it okay for them to make mistakes too. The more I took risks in the classroom, the more I made it safe for them to take risks. As a result, my classroom became a place where real learning could happen.
Mistake #5: I tried to cover everything
I thought that if it was in the curriculum, it had to be taught. The problem is that most curriculum documents are so bloated that it is difficult to cover everything or allot the same amount of time to every assignment. What’s more, covering the curriculum does not guarantee that the students will meet all of the standards. Once I realized that, I began to focus on the standards and on helping my students reach the standards rather than just cover the curriculum. Doing so gave me more time to teach what really mattered and more flexibility to adjust my teaching based on my students’ needs.
Dr. Jackson is a regular blogger over at ASCD Edge. To read more of her work, click here.
On Sunday, February 5, we received the following comment from one of our readers. We would like to thank him/her for offering an astute observation about a guest blog we published on Motivation. Our Academic Director Diane S. Brown, Ph.D. has formulated her response. We’d love to keep the conversation going, so please let us know your thoughts.
“ I am greatly offended that a college is promoting this type of motivation. Anyone who is familiar with actual science and best-practice research behind motivation knows that external rewards (like stickers and stars) do not work. I would recommend looking at this video from the TED Talk by Dan Pink: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html” Posted @ Feb. 05, 2012: by Blog Reader
Dear Blog Reader,
We viewed the Daniel Pink video you suggested, and we are big fans. We particularly like the RSA Animate’s version of Pink’s work, as well as that of Sir Ken Robinson about Changing Education Paradigms. However, Pink is addressing adult motivation in the workplace, and our guest blogpost from Teacher Blogger Charity Preston focuses on children.
There is a big difference in a child’s motivation in grade school versus an adult’s motivation in the workplace. The very act of applying grades to student performance is extrinsic motivation, which, in our educational system, is pretty hard to get around.
The controversy regarding the use of extrinsic reinforcement began in the 1970’s, as researchers began to examine the effects of reward on individual motivation. (Cameron & Pierce, 1996; Lepper, Keavney & Drake, 1996; Cameron, et. al., 2001).
As an institution of higher learning, we stand on the basis that certain motivators– even certain token reward systems– can be a practical reality for teachers, but should always be used with care. Intrinsic motivation is largely developed in young children based on their interaction with their parents. (DeHass et. al, 2005) Therefore, teachers must do what they have to do to reach a seemingly unreachable child, who may be inordinately motivated by extrinsic forces.
In the name of educational achievement, child nurturing, classroom management and teacher sanity, a certified teacher should carefully and lovingly make the call for what works best in his or her classroom. In my own classroom, I have had children who would do almost anything for a trip to the “Treasure Chest,” but weren’t motivated by ANYTHING else. Sure, intrinsic motivation is ideal, but judicial use of extrinsic rewards goes a long way in the primary grades.
Dr. Charles Fay begins his blog on HeadandHeartParent.com by saying “The healthiest and most powerful types of reinforcement involve time and attention rather than stuff.” As a teacher, the best extrinsic rewards I have found are those based on giving my time to a child. Getting a ticket to eat lunch in the classroom with me was a great motivator, as was playing chess or checkers, quilting, or even straightening the bookshelves during recess. The point was not so much what the child was doing, but that the child was receiving one-on-one time with his or her teacher.
Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching respects the science on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, but also pays homage to the power of the art, which is placed in the hands of every teacher, every day.
Would anyone else like to weigh in on this? This is a great topic!
-Diane S. Brown, Academic Director
Student recognition in the classroom is a necessity to keep students working their hardest. It becomes easy to overlook the student who is always doing what is expected, and to always notice the child who is misbehaving. But consciously recognizing students as they achieve great things is vital to motivating children throughout their school career.
Think about the last time you were praised by your superior. How did it feel? Were you then more likely to continue working at that specific something in order to improve it even more? I know I am always grateful when my boss takes notice of something special I have been working on. Make sure your students also have these experiences. Without them, they may be less likely to continue working as hard. Children, in particular, work to please you.
Know your students!
After chatting with some students one-on-one last year, I realized that while a small piece of candy would motivate a few, it would do nothing for others. It was just about that time that I stumbled upon the book The Motivation Breakthrough by Richard Lavoie. He points out that everyone falls mainly into one or two of the following six categories of motivation:
- Prizes (small treats like candy, stickers)
- Prestige (having a student’s name announced, or photo posted)
- Power (teacher’s helper, line leader)
- Projects (student can choose favorite learning activities)
- People (extra recess, working in a group with friends)
- Praise (verbal recognition)
If you have not read the book, I highly suggest it! It also has a great section for parents about their child's motivation for household chores and work ethic. In the book, Mr. Lavoie states that in order to find out the child's motivation, you should use anecdotal records and informal observation. However, I wanted something more concrete.
Prepare a quiz to find out what motivates individuals.
So, I created a simple quiz that would at least help me figure out individual motivations of my students. And it seems to work! Since every child is individually working on a separate goal, they can be refocused much more directly. And it doesn't take a ton more time, just more organization. I call it the Motivation Miracle Program! If you know the child’s motivation, life at school (and at home) can become amazingly easier for all!
Basically, I have developed a simple template from the six motivational styles that Lavoie details in his book. First, I ask students to take the quiz, which asks them about their preferences. This allows me to track how each individual child would like to be rewarded. I then make a punch card for each student. When the student has a completed punch card, he/she earns the agreed upon incentive that was chosen and written on the back.
Now, I use punch cards for each student and customize their goals based on their personal motivation. Once the punch card is filled up, they earn their chosen goal and choose another. By keeping all the punch cards hung up on a bulletin board with o-rings and push pins, the entire class gets a visual reminder every day to work toward an individual goal. Now, it is much easier to get homework returned, and stay on task.
For a printable version of her Motivation Miracle Program, Charity Preston offers it free to all newsletter subscribers http://www.theOrganizedClassroomBlog.com.
Join Charity live at our MAT webinar “Overcoming Organizing Obstacles,” a 30-minute session for teachers on mastering organization in your classroom. It can be done! Register now to reserve your spot!
Charity Preston, MA is the editor and creator of several websites, including The Organized Classroom Blog, Classroom Freebies, and Teaching Blog Central, among others. She received her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Bowling Green State University, OH and a Master in Curriculum and Instruction from Nova Southeastern University, FL, as well as a gifted endorsement from Ohio University. She taught third grade in Lee County, FL for several years before relocating back to her hometown as a gifted intervention specialist. Charity is currently taking time off to run her online businesses and spend time with her toddler. She is married with two children, ages two and 14 and has two cats and a dog. Life is never dull in the Preston house!