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#cyberPD: Opening Minds - Part 1

Pat Johnson wrote about sharing on her blog, Catching Readers Before They Fall. Teaching is also about sharing. I'm excited about sharing and learning with colleagues in my virtual teacher's lounge.  I'm glad to be sitting next to you -- sharing and joining in the #cyberPD learning again this summer.  I've had this summer's discussion book in my TBR pile since it was published earlier this year.  An opportunity to read a book and learn with others?  Priceless.  We will be discussing Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston (Stenhouse, 2012).  I hope you join in the conversations!

My Thoughts and Reflections
I'm going to take Johnston's words to heart:

"I'm not good at this yet." 

It's amazing what words can do - and how often do I slow down to think about the words I use?   I think I'm careful in what I say and how I say it, but little did I know the impact and power my words have on my students and even my own children at home.  How do I slow down, listen, and think about my words?  I'm not good at this yet, but I will be soon enough!  As I was thinking about my words, this quote appeared in my Pinterest updates:
One little word.  One word can change everything!  That is powerful.  One word.  One.

Wow - I loved the analysis and comparison of the fixed-performance and dynamic learning.  At first, I believed that I was a dynamic learner and true believer in the process with high expectations for all. I'm a teacher, so that's what I'm supposed to believe, right? After learning more about the two theories, I understand that I have a different theory belief for myself than I have for my students or colleagues I work with - and my belief of learning may change depending on the person or the circumstance.  I don't feel that I'm stuck in a specific theory or belief, however, I do need to think about not wavering depending on the student or situation. Don't get me wrong.  I do believe that all students can learn and make progress, but I'm sure there is a time or two when I have used the excuse cards.  And that's not acceptable. I need to fully invest in the power of the dynamic-learning theory: the more you learn, the smarter you get -- no matter who you are, where you come from, your score on one test, or the stories that precede you

My biggest fear?  Our school system, many current teachers, and many parents live in this "fixed-performance" world.  How do we change this view and understanding, even when this way of thinking starts early on before school?  I feel the most for the students who struggle (i.e. students with other 'labels' like LD or ELL or low potential).  How can we change their learning trajectory to be a dynamic performer when one school year they have a teacher who believes in them as learners and the next year a teacher assumes they just can't do it?  The time with my students is precious and I need to respect the power of words and thinking in my classroom from day one.  And the same can be true when I speak with adults, colleagues, and teachers.  Words matter.

Implications in My Classroom
As Johnston states, teaching is planned opportunism, requires constant improvisation, and choosing more productive talk (p.4).  I think taking the time to slow down, encourage more listening, asking students to "say more about that" and"how did you do that?" (awesome assessment tools!) allowing the students to become the thinkers and in essence the teachers, and talk more about the process and thinking as opposed to a right answer or clear understanding.  We all need to dig a little deeper and engage in close reading of text and figure out together how we can process the text.

"School interventions based on the dynamic-learning framework can change the trajectory of children experiencing difficulty in school" (p.18) -- whew! Good news!  I want to learn more about the influences of the trajectories of children Johnston mentions:
  1. Think about what we choose to say when students are successful or not
  2. Think about how we frame activities
  3. Think about what we explicitly teach students about how people's brains work
The conversations in the classroom should consistently invoke a dynamic-learning frame and disrupt the fixed-performance frame. I need to continually believe that students will grow and learn and change and show them this is true through our daily talk.

I'm looking forward to digging into chapter 4 about the different forms of feedback.  Johnston states "How we give children feedback is probably the most difficult for us to change, but it is probably the point of most leverage" (p.34).

As I already said, "I'm not good at this . . . yet."

* * * * * * * * * * * 

#cyberPD: Learning more from others!

July 11th  Chapters 1-3  Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine
July 18th  Chapters 4-6  Hosted by Jill Fisch at My Primary Passion
July 25th  Chapter 7-9  Hosted by Laura Komos at Camp Read-a-Lot
July 26th  Twitter Chat (time to be announced)


  1. Michelle,
    I wish I was sitting beside you this morning as I have a million thoughts as I read your post. First of all, I love the voice of your reflection. I really struggled with mine this week. I couldn't get past the "text booky" feel of my writing. You have captured the message, your thoughts, and the many implications in such an interesting way.

    I really don't know where to start. First of all, I love your "one little word" point. I met with a few colleagues last night. One of them said in the midst of all this craziness as I begin my year I'm going to think about one word, "JOY". I'm going to be looking for the joy in everything. Our perception does trickle into the way students live within our classrooms each day. You are right, we have to watch every word.

    Your fixed performance world point is also one I have thought about. It seems administrators, parents, and some colleagues have gotten into this fixed performance mindset. As I read I thought about teachers who bring students to our intervention assistance team. What are they saying about students? Does our quest for "data" bring them to fixed conversations instead of looking for growth, discussing process, building strategies?

    I enjoyed reading your classroom implications. When I was reading my biggest question was, "How do we change the thinking of someone with a fixed mindset to that of a dynamic learner?". You've started to address that right here.

    Thanks for sharing, Michelle. You gave me much to think about.


  2. Great thinking! You gave me a lot to think about as well. I too feel most for the learners who struggle. By third grade I know they often have a fixed mind set and I have to work extra hard to change it.

    Loved this line from your post, "It's amazing what words can do - and how often do I slow down to think about the words I use? I think I'm careful in what I say and how I say it, but little did I know the impact and power my words have on my students and even my own children at home. How do I slow down, listen, and think about my words? I'm not good at this yet, but I will be soon enough!"

    I've also been thinking about the words I use at home with my children. I know I need to slow down, listen, ad think about them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I always love to read your posts, Michelle! You always give me so much to reflect on and words to ponder, and this post is no exception.

    I thought a lot about those groups of students that you mentioned. How can we encourage them and help them see the dynamic learning framework? The more I think about it, the more powerful this concept becomes. Are we letting them know they are not good at something "yet"?

    Someday, I would love to sit down with you for a cup of coffee (or several) and talk about so many things! :)

  4. Michelle,

    I really enjoyed this post. I always enjoy all of your posts and I admire how honest you are about every topic you take on. I completely relate to how you said that you have a different belief system for yourself as compared to your belief system for your students and coworkers.

    One of the things that I admire most about this post is your writing style. I know that you are always working on this through your Slice of Life posts and your hard work shows in this post. I love how you synthesized so many things into this post. You connected Pat Johnston's post, a quote from twitter and thoughts and ideas from your reading and you did it all so smoothly. You inspire me to work at my own writing more. Thanks.

  5. Michelle,
    I really love these ideas:
    "Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out".-shared with hubby! He agreed-great words to live by!
    "I'm not good at this yet..." always a learner.
    "Mistakes are proof that you are trying" Life is messy sometimes! YES! Life is messy...
    and One word can make the biggest difference. YOU!

    I want to get the book so I can contribute more to the conversation, but this is a very powerful opportunity for learning. We have to believe that kids can grow! During p.d. I attended yesterday, the teacher shared how much students can learn from each other-if given the chance.

    Thank you for this inspirational post-you offer so much to think about. Here you go again, inspiring me daily!

  6. Good morning Michelle,
    Last year I did the online PD with Patrick Allen's conferring book. Somehow, I didn't get my act together for this year. After reading people's posts this morning, I have vowed I am going to go buy this book this morning and catch up with all of you! I really am!

    Like so many others, loved what you had to say this morning. I loved your classroom implications, especially your thinking about the fixed/dynamic mindset. It really changes things, doesn't it, if we think about people, especially kids who are struggling, in terms of "yet." I think of all of the comments I have heard about one of my own sons, who had a hard time with school, and how many times I have come home from conferences and cried, and how much I would have loved to hear someone say, "He's not a strong reader/writer YET," as if maybe there was some hope for him. It certainly has made me conscious of how I talk parents and kids. Or maybe I should apply it to my own life- I'm not a good cook, or runner, or house cleaner YET.

    Thanks for this very thoughtful post. Look forward to reading more of yoru thinking!

  7. Because of vacation plans, I can't participate, but I will be reading as many of the posts as I can-such teaching you all are doing for those of us who are reading! I need to get the book, but anyway, loved your post, and like others above, Michelle, think you're so right to question about everyone's fixed/dynamic mindset. If we can only continue to look at students and our colleagues with 'new' eyes, I believe change can happen. Thanks so much for an illuminating post!

  8. Michelle,
    The word "yet" stood out for me as well. There is so much power in that little word.

    I also want to learning more about changing the trajectory of children who are experiencing difficulty in school by using a dynamic-learning framework.

    I love your reflections on the implications all of this has on the classroom. Taking time to slow down, encourage more listening, and allowing students to share more about the process in our classroom conversations, are all ways in which we can promote more productive talk. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Michelle,

    I love how you stated, "I do believe that all students can learn and make progress, but I'm sure there is a time or two when I have used the excuse cards. And that's not acceptable" I think this is probably a way that many teachers feel, but are afraid to verbalize. I know I was. Thank you for sharing that. We can only get better at what we do if we are willing to dig deep and look within ourselves to make necessary changes.

    I work in a Title I school and have found that many of my colleagues seem to be in a fixed mindset. I'm wondering if we are able to begin by making small changes in our own classrooms, working to help students become dynamic thinkers, if it might transfer to others who observe it? Then again, I wonder if a common language among all colleagues in a school would be more effective? A common buy in - the more students learn, the smarter they get.

    You have left me with more to think about. You've written an important post and reflection.

    Thank you!


  10. As I continue to read the different posts. Your post made a shift for me into our own lives with our families. I love how you set apart the quote Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.
    Isn't that a life lesson that we begin teaching at age 2 and continue to work on throughout life. Thanks for a new point of view.

  11. Michelle, Like Cathy, I loved the personal feel of your post. I couldn't agree more when you wrote your biggest fear is how many people live in the "fixed performance" world -- it is a huge problem. But in the meantime, we can give our students an entire year of supporting them with thoughtful words and thinking. Like you, I ended my post with that powerful word "yet" - it will be my go-to word this year!

  12. Michelle, Your post resonated with so much of what I was thinking when I read the first 3 chapters. I realized that like you, I have my own "fixed" beliefs about myself (I'm not good at sports). As a teacher, I work hard to move my students beyond that kind of thinking, and I need to be more aware of how it impacts my world. You very eloquently shared my own fears of those around us who live in a "fixed performance" world who also have a huge impact on our students. I have those same frustrations, especially with colleagues. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts in such a lovely way!

  13. Michelle,

    Thank you for sharing your reflection. I love how you are internalizing and trying incorporate the power of "words" into your thinking and classroom.

    While I was reading your post I thought of something Donalyn Miller spoke about his summer. She talked about how students were reading in her class, but when they moved on the following year, it stopped. She went on to say that if you are truly changing a child's life, it will continue whether you are there or not. If our words are truly changing a child's thinking, then it will continue outside of our classroom.


  14. I also loved the power of that one word yet! I just re-read chapters 1-3 last night and that has been something that stood out to me both times I have read it. Your thinking about reflecting on ourselves as learners and teachers is so important.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Thanks for your post. I enjoyed it. I'm loving all the blogs written about the book's first three chapters. And thanks for the mention of my 'sharing blog' ---Pat J.


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