Category: Education Topics

Leadership: Growth Mindset

Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? The mindset you have influences your thinking, actions, and decision making.

In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck points out the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Use questions to reflect on your leadership. Are you modeling and communicating a belief that learning is about time, opportunity, and effort which is a growth mindset?  Or, do you communicate through your actions or words that some people are simply more able than others, in a world of those who can and those who cannot?

My Top 5 Growth Mindset Concepts

Reflect on my top five growth mindset concepts as you consider your leadership and commitment to embracing a growth mindset.

Challenges can be opportunities:  Challenges are part of life, work, and school.  It is a personal choice to view challenges as problems or as opportunities to overcome or to improve.

Make the word “learning” part of your vocabulary:  People who believe in growth mindset are always learning.  Are you always learning? Do you demonstrate through words and actions a belief that every person in your organization is always learning?  How do you respond to people who say they can’t learn something new?

Redefine “brilliant”:  Very few people learn new concepts with magical ease.  Most people have to work hard; some may work less than others but almost always there is hard work behind a perception of brilliance.  Schools have been designed to communicate we all learn in lock step.  Such a belief leads to a sorting mentality, everyone does not learn the same or at the same speed. Sorting beliefs are always tied with fixed mindset thinking. 

Change your view of criticism:  As a leader, receiving criticism is part of the job.  The normal response people expect when they criticize another is often anger and resentment instead of an opportunity to problem solve. How you react to criticism speaks to your leadership and mindset.  Here’s my challenge to you: move the personal away from criticism and see it as an opportunity to grow, problem solve, and often to collaborate.

Use the word “yet.”Dweck says “not yet” has become one of her favorite phrases. Not being able to solve a problem can mean you simply cannot do it or you have not solved it yet.  Fixed mindset: you either can or cannot find a solution. Growth mindset: you cannot solve the problem, yet, but with more time, support, and effort you will be able to.  This is a simple concept that can have a profound impact on you and those around you.  So, the next time a person says, “ I can’t do math,” you can have a different and unexpected response for them.

Continue to learn more about growth mindset and how you can grow as a leader and have a positive influence on others!

The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook

The Writing Teacher – Student Partnerships

I asked Laura to share her thoughts on how an English teacher can create a culture of feedback by supporting student partnership.

Reading and grading papers is a fact of the teaching life. However, writing teachers seem to spend more time on students’ work because they provide students with lengthy revision suggestions and correct most of the students’ incorrect use of conventions.  Frustrations over workload and time spent grading quickly set in, but these feelings go underground when you organize writing partnerships in your classes.

Students can select writing partners or you can assign them. However, offering students choice motivates them to work hard and support each other through the process. Since partnerships can change after completing a writing unit, students will be able to pair-up with several classmates during the year. In addition, if a partner is working diligently on a draft, encourage students to seek assistance from someone who has completed that part of the process.

Writing partnerships benefit teachers and students, and the suggestions that follow provide tips that help you place the responsibility for writing plans, drafting, revising, and editing on students.

Supporting Student Partnerships. Collaborate with students and motivate them to write, and at the same time, you’ll boost their engagement in the entire process.

  • Create the rubric with student input so that they invest in the process.
  • Negotiate with students the amount of time they need for each of the following parts of the process: designing a rubric with you; brainstorming and planning; composing the first draft; revising for content and style; and editing for conventions.
  • Circulate among students when they brainstorm, plan, and the draft so you can discuss questions and roadblocks with them and offer suggestions that move them forward.
  • Read and offer feedback on second drafts, for these have been greatly improved by students.
  • Use the rubric to make positive comments on a sticky note and ask one to two questions that push students back into the revision and/or editing process.

Releasing Responsibility to Students Partnerships. Students learn how to evaluate a piece of writing by comparing it to a rubric. Have students write self and peer evaluations on notebook paper and file these in their writing folders.  Make sure students save all of their written work–from brainstormed ideas to second drafts–in a writing folder.

  • Have students discuss their topics before brainstorming. This ensures that they generate more detailed lists.
  • Ask students to use their rubric to evaluate the richness of details in their writing plan and add specific details when necessary.
  • Have students use the rubric to self-and-peer evaluate first drafts by measuring these against the negotiated rubric.
  • Help partners understand that first drafts require much work. Encourage them to revise for content first, then writing style, and finally for conventions.
  • Have students use their revisions and edits to compose the second draft.
  • Require that students turn in all of their work with the second draft on top.

The Payoffs

  Teachers find it easier to grade and offer feedback on improved second drafts. Moreover, student partnerships free-up teachers with the time they need to support individuals who struggle with a task.  

Partnerships foster independence in writing among students. When they experience how comparing a draft to the rubric provides them with suggestions for improving their piece, they can choose and use feedback to revise and rewrite their writing.

Leadership: Build Commitment!

 

Leaders who can build commitment towards a well-articulated vision and common goals have much better odds of achieving success. Whether you are a principal, executive, teacher, or coach you will face choices that define your leadership, communicate your core values, and the values of your school or organization.  Your choices have the ability to draw people to you, away from you, or cause people to fear you. This is a big responsibility, and one of the many that come with any leadership position.

One’s position, at times, can allow the use of positional authority to make someone do something. Beware the lure of positional authority; making people do things does not build commitment. Many times people need a job and will allow themselves to be treated poorly just because they need the job. Such a style of autocratic leadership will never build a staff committed to a vision and goals. This is compliance based leadership. Yes, it makes people “do” things but it cannot make people care.

Effective leaders, schools, and organizations  build commitment to a vision, goals, and their personal “why.” Effective leaders know that people who care and are committed to a vision and goals are always better team members.

I will present several reflections on how well you, your school or organization are building an environment of commitment VS an environment of compliance. Let’s start with what you have the most control over, yourself, followed by your school or organization.

A Personal Path

Would people with whom you work say you are trustworthy, a person of integrity? This is a complex question, at the core a repetition of you doing what you say you will do time and time again. Such consistency of the leader helps to build trust and organizational commitment. This strategy and skill will help a leader, assuming the leader is making decisions in alignment with a shared vision and goals. Without trust, you cannot lead. Lack of trust grows when people see or feel a disconnect between what you say and what you do.  

  • As an educator, if you believe in putting students first, and I hope you do, ask yourself: Do your actions support this belief or create contradictions?
  • Are you making daily decisions that are in alignment with a shared vision and goals or in opposition?
  • A simple but important question: Do you know what the vision and goals are?

An Organizational Path

On an organizational level, the organization and leaders within will be collectively challenged when employees see a disconnect between what the organization communicates as its core values and the actions of those who lead in the organization.  This type of disconnect can breed a cynical attitude from the employee and will not lead to creating a commitment to the values and beliefs of the organization.

  • Is there congruence or disconnects between the vision and goals of your school or organization and how employees view the vision and goals?  
  • What can you do, as a leader, to help create better alignment between what is communicated organizationally and how staff perceives it?
  • Do employees know the vision and have a general understanding of the goals?

No organization, school, or person will find greatness by making people do things. Such actions will always be the essence of a compliant organization.  There are two challenges to consider: (1) work towards decision making congruence between vision and goals; (2) frame your actions and decisions around your personal “why” as you work towards building an engaged and committed team.  

People become engaged and committed when they believe in what they’re doing and believe they are making a difference. This deep commitment brings out the best in employees and staff.   

Please check out my book, The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook

 

The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook

 

 

The Writing Teacher- Effective Leads

This blog grew out of discussions Laura and I had on teaching students how to write effective leads.  As we like to do, we are sharing ideas you can try immediately in your class or school.

What makes students want to continue reading? One key element is the lead or introduction because it can create a desire to read more. The first few sentences of book or story should grab the reader’s attention and make him or her wonder.

When you teach students how to open a story or essay, they start writing lackluster openings such as I’m going to tell you about whales or I’m going to write about my best friend. These leads are snoozers and typical of students who have not been taught what makes a lead engaging and motivates them to continue.

Leads That Work. Leads that activate the voice within readers that says, ”Keep reading!” have important jobs:

  1. The lead prepares readers for what’s to come in the text.
  2. The lead raises questions that can be answered if the learner reads more.

Students can use both elements to evaluate and improve their own leads.

Five Leads Worth Teaching.

1.Lead with a question that doesn’t have a “Yes’ or “No answer.

Example:  Why did Jack cancel today’s hike?

2.Lead with a dialogue that’s short and arouses curiosity.

Example:  “She’s running from the bakery, with a loaf of bread inside her jacket,” a man shouted.

“One more block and I can ditch into an alley,” the girl muttered.

3.Lead with a short anecdote or story that captures readers’ imagination.

Example:  She stared at her cat–her pet for nine years. How could she hold her beloved Angus while the Vet ended his life?

4.Lead with a fascinating fact that increases readers interest.

Example:  The giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world, and their newborn giraffe babies are taller than human babies.

5.Lead by setting a tone or mood to draw readers into a text.

Example:  The house looked strange. Black paint covered the windows. Suddenly, the front door flung open, yet neither human nor animal stepped onto the rickety porch.

Create Mini-Lessons for Each Kind of Lead

One-at-a-time is the rule for introducing leads. The suggestions that follow can support your lessons.

  • Explain both jobs of a lead.
  • Name the lead you’re going to model.
  • Write an example for students to study and discuss or use an example from a book.
  • Think aloud and show how the lead introduces the piece and write the questions the lead raises on the board.
  • Organize students into pairs.
  • Invite partners to craft a sample lead and discuss the questions it raises.
  • Encourage students to share their leads with the class.

Now you can show students how to craft leads that draw readers into a text.

Remember, that first draft leads are usually not terrific. So, ask students to return to their openings and use what they’ve practiced as they work to improve their writing skills!
Learn more about leads, introductions, and writing from Laura Robb’s book, Teaching Middle School Writers Heinemann, 2010.