Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fall 2015 Update: Week 6 and Week 7 Challenges + Week 8 Reflections

Here is my write-up on the Week 6 and Week 7 growth mindset challenges that my students did (see earlier posts about Weeks 2/3 and Weeks 4/5 plus the start of the semester): very inspiring stuff! In addition, there are some comments here from the Week 8 Reflections posts; I really liked the way that growth mindset emerged in those posts as a kind of class "theme" even for students who have not been doing growth mindset challenges each week.

Here are some of those challenges people worked on:

Time challenges. Lack of time and time management challenges are the most commonly recurring topic, as here for example. The problem is that scarcity of time (like poverty) becomes a terrible trap: you don't have time to find a way out of your lack of time. Consider this student's remark about not having time to do growth challenges: I think it’s a good idea to challenge yourself, but I’m just trying to make it out of this semester alive.

One student learned how to use Cheezburger (yes!) to make this meme about wanting to get more sleep:

Another student shared this picture of time as she concluded that her biggest challenge across all classes is time management:

Writing challenges. Luckily, doing a growth challenge doesn't have to take more time. Students are already doing writing for this class, and the challenge can be to try a new style or a new writing process strategy, like this person trying first-person style, or this person doing story-within-a-story style, while this person worked on writing shorter (which for many people — including me! — is harder than writing something long).

Reading challenges. I am also excited that some people are trying reading challenges! One student read in a new genre, and another student did a reading out loud challenge.

Blogging. I thought this was so cool: a student who has her own food blog — HappyHealthyNoms — blogged about growth mindset there, and here's what she wrote about thatI hadn't heard of Growth Mindset before this class, and it has really helped me a lot. It's an important thought process, and I hope by sharing it on my other blog, that it can help others!

More about blogging. I am excited that this student now sees the power of blogging for growth and learning: I thought of this while day dreaming in my biology lecture the other day. As I was thinking about taking notes, I thought to myself, wouldn't it be really cool to create a blog for each class. Everything will be organized by date, would have a heading, and you can access it anywhere because all you need is a link. You would no longer have to email yourself the document to view it on another computer. 

Connecting classes. This student explains how growth mindset can be applied across classesI definitely think that my mindset has changed in this class and I have been able to apply that to my other classes as well, which is so freaking cool!! And something similar from this student:  I actually have been practicing the growth mindset things I read. I've been trying various types of studying for this class and even others.

Speaking in class. Speaking up in class can be really hard, especially in a foreign language class (I used to teach language classes, so I know!) Here is what a student did in French class: I am very proud of myself this week. I actually spoke in front of my class the other day. Not only that, but I spoke in French! This is a big deal for me. I can read and interpret French perfectly, but speaking it is another thing. I have recently been practicing on an app I downloaded on my iPad and it makes me read stories aloud. I was very excited when I finished speaking French, and my teacher was impressed! I guess you cannot succeed unless you try!

... and, even better, that blog post about the French class challenged another student: As I was scrolling through this week's growth mindset posts, this post caught my eye. I think what made it important was that this was someone's success story with the growth mindset. It goes to show that you don't know what you're capable of once you try it. In this student's case, she never spoke in French in her class, but she finally did. I want to overcome my own inhibitions and gain something from it, just like this student! I don't really like to speak up in class, so I want to push myself to participate more in my class discussions with my professors in the future! 

Talking to others. Growth mindset is not just for college classes, of course, and this student talked to her mom, who is a teacher, about growth mindset, and to some other teachers as well. Here is what she found out: Some had already learned about this and said that they loved the concept, but sometimes it is hard to do in a classroom. Something about the amount of time in a class room and sometimes things like standardized testing get in the way. 

Beyond school. Growth mindset is also not just about learning in school. One student wrote about learning handy work from his dad, while another student wrote about teaching band.

Mindset as habit. It was also reassuring to learn that promoting growth mindset is useful even for those students who already have adopted those habits, as this student explainsI haven't been doing any of the growth mindset challenges. This class has been a pretty good opportunity to practice the mindset habits though. As I said in my original Growth Mindset post, this is a strategy that I have kind of discovered on my own over the last decade or so. I enjoy being able to learn, especially if it comes from any sort of failure. I like to know that I can still be challenged.

Encouragement. It makes me really happy that the growth mindset concept can give students the encouragement they need, as this student explains: I had heard of Carol Dweck and her theory before, but I had never actually applied it to my own life. I have only completed two growth mindset blog posts, but the idea of growth mindset has been in the back of my mind all semester. At a time when everything has seemed completely out of control, those challenges have actually been a blessing—something I never thought I would say about a class assignment.

Asking for help. Here is my favorite challenge story of the week — it is not easy to ask for help, and one student faced that challenge head-onWhen I'm not working at a high level, I am really hard on myself. In the past, no matter how hard things got, I was completely unwilling to ask for help from anyone, including instructors. This semester, I've started to see that this doesn't do anything but make things worse for myself. This past week, I asked for an extension for the first time in my college career. Even knowing that I had a very, very valid reason, I still felt a little bit ashamed. But, I asked. I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but it really is to me. I asked for help at a really crucial time. I ASKED. Before, I would have seen it as a failure. Today, I see it as a roar.

Reflecting on memes. In addition to finding and making their own memes (see below), some students reflected on memes that show up in the class announcements. It's really helpful for me to see which of those class announcement memes people connect with!

Small steps. I really identify with this cat. Little steps, baby kitten. Little steps. And another student remarked about this kitten: Each week I have focused on something that I want to improve on so that I can have overall improvement.

Not knowing. I like it because some times I feel like we get discouraged when we don't know how to do something. We should not get discouraged though because doing things that we do not know how to do is the only way we can learn to do them.

Making mistakes. I really liked this meme for this weeks growth mindset, because it made me think about my great grandma. My great grandma used to always tell me "Baby you were created to make mistakes. However, the decisions that you make after those mistakes, is what creates your mind". I never really understood what she meant until I listen to the TedX Talk about growth mindset.  

Failure. My favorite type of positive reinforcement, I have come to find, is cute, funny, and motivational little memes. Positivefail thinking is key! So, like this cute little meme I found says, it really hurts to fail but it doesn't mean YOU are a failure. You just have to keep trying again and again. 

Difficult is not impossible. The Storybook project is probably the best showcase for this. It is a project that is small enough that I can actually finish, and isn't so overwhelming that I can't tackle it on a weekly basis. I'm excited about it, excited to work on it, excited to receive feedback and make it better. There is always room for improvement and it has a ripple effect into everything else you write.

Worth it. I think this really stood out to me because it applies to me in one of my classes this semester. This class was said to be extremely hard. Right now, I am only holding on to the fact that a lot of people said it would be worth it in the end. 

Look boldly ahead. I will miss this class when it is over, but the tools learned will always come in handy. Feeling stumped in writing? Rewrite something you like! Rewrite something you don't like so that you do like it! Understanding what makes things work and not work is a big part of being able to tell a compelling story.

And below you will find the various memes and infographics that the students found or made and included in their posts, and by saving them here I will be able to re-use them in future classes: what one student connects with will probably speak to other students too! Students also explored different kinds of resources. For example, one student found a YouTube video about Steve Jobs and growth mindset, and another student found a Carol Dweck quote that she really liked.

~ ~ ~

Reflections. As I was creating my meme for this week's growth mindset, I decided to base it off of something that was relevant to my life. Sometimes, I look at the past negatively; decisions I've made, tests I've failed, etc. However, I think that sometimes the past can inspire you for the future.

Ingenuity. This infographic shows the process of being a genius which involves much more than just intelligence. In fact, intelligence isn't even listed in the graphic. Instead, ingenuity takes inspiration, perspiration, improvisation, aspiration, contemplation, exploration, daily frustrations, imitation, desperation, and pure elation. 

Great things. This spoke to me as I've been working on a side project recently. Each day bit by bit it improves and is refined. I'm having conversations with people about features and how to create a better experience. I am seeing "a series of small things" being "brought together" to create this incredible tool. For me, sometimes starting small helps to get everything started and going. Approaching everything from a large perspective can be difficult at times. It's good to see the big picture. It is also good to get started with the small things.

Niche. Everyone has their own niche. If everybody were really good at the same thing, not only would life be really boring, but nothing would really get done.

 The red dot! I would like to feel less overwhelmed on the second half of this semester. I’ve been taking it as it comes. I’d like to be able to have more control over my schedule for the rest of the semester.

Negative thinking. Perspective is a huge part of growth mindset. You have to be aware of your surroundings in order to succeed. Knowing what is happening and how you are feeling and why are huge aspects of succeeding. Don't give up, look at the big picture.

Creating. I will not even try to summarize how this student got from Caesar to creating and Grumpy Cat - just read the post! :-)

You can do it! Although I haven't completed many growth mindset challenges this semester, the messages have stuck with me.  I have worked hard to reframe my successes and failures in such a way that inspires growth instead of stagnation or resignation.  I continually remind myself that by returning to school, I've already overcome my past failure. Being a returning student doesn't make me a failure. It shows my hard work and determination to return despite obstacles.  

Keep moving forward! I would say that this class has been a good opportunity to practice the growth mindset activities.  If I do the work, I get a good grade but I also have to revise the work, and continue to improve my writing every week. 


And another motivator from the world of nature: Believe in yourself.

What can I say to myself? Now I have a new way to frame my problems. Instead of putting myself down and thinking that I don't have what it takes, I try to use what I know to attempt the problem. All I need is a little faith in myself.

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