Some time, ago, I received this email from Jim Wright, Principal, Pilgrims:
“We want to offer an online mentoring service for teachers so they can get one to one online mentoring for any problems / difficulties they are facing in the classroom. I’m doing this with a great trainer in Spain names Jennifer Schmidt…”
I got so excited about helping Pilgrims ,which I love so much , and therefore, I didn’t have to think twice about helping with the project piloting ,representing ETAL ( English Teachers Association of Larissa).
Here’s the project, summarized.
Cultivating Creative Learning
“How can I MAKE my students to do things? “ There is no miracle or magic potion that can make this happen. However, we can help students in developing their brains, cognitive and non-cognitive skills, perspective, creativity, self-efficacy, behavior, and outlook in life.
When we focus on building a growth mindset and helping students develop as independent learners with positive self-efficacy, we create a strong foundation in students in their development as PEOPLE. We can then begin cultivating life-long learners and productive members of society.
Jennifer Schmidt of The Cogent Construct based in Spain has partnered with Jim Wright of Pilgrim’s based in the UK to offer a new and innovative online teacher coaching / mentorship program. In keeping with the philosophy of both entities, the coaching will be based on providing teachers with the necessary tools to be as CREATIVE as possible.
About growth mindset, in a nutshell: Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).
Jennifer, made clear that we were in the stages of gathering information on what teachers really need and that our coaching would be based on the “Art” of Teaching.
However, we needed to combine this with the real issues teachers were facing, since some things are in our control and others are not.
Jennifer, wanted to focus on the solvable problems and provide teachers with new ways of approaching teaching.
Jennifer, emphasised that: “ I know the typical issues (in many… but not all cases): time, parents, standardized tests, lack of support, too much content, etc etc. We want to focus on things that teachers can actually use by taking real issues from the classroom and attempting to improve situations through CREATIVE techniques. Much of what we will do in the coaching sessions will be based on the roots of how people LEARN and THINK…including the teacher.
We would like to focus on things within their control. What do the teachers feel very confident in and what do they feel they are lacking in their teaching skills and knowledge of how students learn.”
This information would be useful to discuss, in our Skype calls.
First of all, we were sent a list of videos to watch, to help us get the main idea of our Skype sessions.
Video on growth mindsets
Video on differentiating instructions
Article on learning menus
Video on growth mindset and effective praise
THE PILOT in brief
The new Pilgrims product, is about offering one to one training and teacher coaching/ mentorship via Skype.
Jennifer, as a professor of Learning Theory and Teaching Methodology ,is constantly asked :”How can I MAKE my students do xxx?”
“These questions, are related to mindsets. Do we believe we have been born with limited intelligence and skills or do we see these as things that can grow? This is known as growth mindset”, answered Jennifer.
The pilot wasn’t actually a course.
Our training / coaching was based in growth mindset with many other “learning” techniques included. The idea was that, the training would be done in stages and would be personalized for each teacher. The training / coaching was one to one.
Jennifer, ran the pilot in May 2019, with 6 teachers, from Greece,Portugal and Slovakia. I was one of the three Greek teachers.
We ,actually , piloted the introductory level. It was 6 sessions ,of one hour each.
The sessions were related to gaining an understanding of the 8 main areas of growth mindset. In addition, we were asked to take on new tasks over the 6 sessions in order to apply growth mindset to ourselves, because, as research has shown, knowing the components has nothing to do with putting them into practice. We, then, discussed how to apply the areas of growth mindset to our classrooms. We created goals and doable action plans.
The three phases of the project
The introductory phase, is generally meant to ease the students into a new mindset.
The next phase will be the practitioner phase.
The third phase will be the master phase.
The best format for Jennifer would be to offer group ” live” sessions ,face to face first and then, offer the one to one coaching online.
Once our ETAL Association board had chosen 3 of its members, to take part in this intensive piloting, we contacted Jennifer who then, sent us more videos to watch .
Here is a quick video to review fixed and growth mindsets. You will see two characters: Jay and Ann.
We are not trying to make all kids like Ann. However, we are trying to help them be a bit less like Jay.
She also attached a few charts and images related to effective effort.
Learning Menu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcgMIril5bM
Choice boards and more: https://www.smore.com/z12ay-tic-tac-toe-choice-boards-menus
In our first Skype session, I decided that I would put effort into doing less teachers talk / explanations and more work on differentiating instruction.
I looked for instructions about how to manage this, while at the same time , help my most shy students to project their voice ,during the lessons, and here’s my most favourite idea about voice projection:
“The next time someone tells you to “project” or to “speak up,” remember that projecting your voice is much more than just making it louder.
- You project your voice by allowing it to shine with your personality, and having confidence that you have something unique to say.
- You project your voice with passion for your message by setting a clear intention.
- And you project your voice by developing a resonant sound that is supported with your whole body through air and energyWhen you do these three things, you will be heard.”
The main idea is that, all kids have potential and we have to start giving them effective strategies to help them with their goals.We are there to help them, not to feed their negativity. Once they have the strategies and put them into play, we should never forget to praise them.
In the next two sessions, we talked about mistakes and the power of “YET”!
Mistakes, are opportunities to learn! All teachers,should remind our students that, we want them to be the best they can be and that our brains, learn from mistakes!
“We can learn from error! It’s the brain making new connections, it’s the brain growing” said Jennifer.
We have to teach our students strategies on how to handle the mistake. It’s not just about persistence-it’s also about strategies to make it work!
In my class,I used the “ Exit tickets” reflection strategy to help my kids reflect on their learning.
I told my students that we have to celebrate our mistakes-not blame others, not make excuses, not avoid our responsibilities- in order to be able to grow!
Jennifer told us about the kinds of mistakes we make and asked us to give our students a series of challenges to help them build their self-confidence and prove to them that they can do things! What a transformational experience, for our students!
We may have all noticed that,students with a fixed mindset are more likely to believe they can fail and that by doing so their abilities will be questioned. Just the act of hitting obstacles would prove to them that they aren’t capable of overcoming them. Students with a growth mindset, on the other hand, don’t really see failure as on option – obstacles are just perceived as opportunities to improve and learn, and by being faced with them and, generally something new, we get smarter.
Jennifer, illustrated that, this difference further with an interesting remark about language and how we use it to rate success. She mentioned, how saying “not yet” to students instead of saying they failed a class/a test is a much better way to show them that even if they have difficulties overcoming something now, the time will come when they will succeed if they continue tackling the obstacle from different angles. The use of “yet” shows that there is a learning curve, and points to the process, not the outcome. This also tells children that they aren’t being taught to learn simply for grades, but for their future and it encourages them to dream big and think about what they want to do with their lives, instead of focusing only on what they are currently achieving in school.
Video for kids
A little girl happy about her mistake
Carol Dweck on Mistakes
Also,here are two videos about Marva Collins, whom we talked about in 2nd session.
Last,but not least, here is a great video, on the power of YET. This video has had over 40 million views!
By the way, I also found this “Digital Menu” link, quite interesting and worth sharing!
In our next session, we discussed the benefit of giving students challenges.
Jennifer , asked me to find a fun physical challenge I could give the students were I knew they were going to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process in order to complete the challenge.
The challenge procedure
First,I discussed with them the following: the types of mistakes, how to handle mistakes, not blaming or making excuses, and reflection after the challenge.
Then, I gave my students a “Talent vs Effort “challenge , which I found highly motivating!
I asked the kids, if they had been taking performance lessons of any kind, such as acting, singing, dancing, gymnastics or playing a musical instrument, then we were all set with an excellent stage act.
If they hadn’t been taking lessons but had their heart set on singing, dancing or acting, they should also go for it. During their performances in class we talked about not getting mad if their feedback wasn’t completely positive. “Use any criticism you receive to improve your act” , I said. Then, I asked volunteer classmates to actually, try the challenge, under their classmates’ instructions, to see for themselves how demanding it was and therefore,respect their classmates’ hard work and effort. Their talented classmates, actually, taught them strategies to help them do the challenges! I decided to write this quote,on the board: “ It’s not a competition, it’s a challenge”.
We also worked on the techniques to help them gain control when they make mistakes ie laughing, humour, let’s start over…
Finally, we reflected on what didn’t work and of course, we used praise, after each challenge!
Our motto was : “ We never give up! We help each other transfer”!
The outcome was that, they quickly, recognized that, while the realization of our own dreams requires that we put forth great effort. That effort must be more than simply investing in ourselves – our talents and abilities.
Also, the fact that, to make a worthwhile contribution, we must also sow into the lives of others as well as the environment and the society in which we live.
In the following Skype session, we discussed another area of Growth Mindset: Difficulties and Obstacles / How to handle problems.
It happens to all of us, we are working away, in a groove and out of the blue, we are hit with an obstacle. Something comes into our life experience that knocks us off course and shakes us to the core. What do we do? Fall apart, or overcome the obstacle in our way with everything we’ve got? The answer is clear, and can be tackled easily if we are practicing a “Growth Mindset.” Something, worth teaching our students ,too.
We also talked about the power of project-based learning ( PBL) . It can reveal children’s hidden talents and hidden genius, both to their teachers and even to the children themselves. They connect students to their communities and help them envision the many ways they can contribute to the world and have an impact on real people.
I was going to teach my students these skills through skill transfer. In order to do so,I had them come up with strategies to deal with a problem and then share their findings with others….and also try to use these strategies themselves.
I decided to ask my students to think about this problem: “How they can improve their English skills, during their Summer holidays” . After they had looked for possible solutions to it, they had to create group posters, with the suggested solutions on.
“ What language skill do you most struggle with? What are some effective ways you have found of improving that skill? Let us know, on your posters.”
First, I told my kids what PBL is about and that memorising facts has nothing to do with real life learning. On the contrary, PBL has.Then ,we looked into info about how to improve our English skills, on the internet, together and used the KWL chart to gather information. They were free to add their own suggestions on their group posters, of course.
Finally, the kids created their lists of strategies and their beautiful posters: “ This is how we can improve our English, this Summer”
Here’s a relevant video to watch.
Problem Based Learning (not just for kids)
In our last session, session 6, we discussed feedback.
Jennifer, asked me some quick questions at the end of the session to give her feedback to help make the pilot training / coaching even better.
In that session, we also, talked about the fact that, the feedback teachers give students,can influence their mindsets in surprising ways. For example, while praise for intelligence, such as “You’re so smart!” is considered by some to be motivating, research demonstrates that it can actually have a negative impact on student motivation and achievement.
Studies have shown that, praise for intelligence actually leads to less persistence, less enjoyment, and worse performance than praise for effort. When students are praised for having high ability, they come to attribute their success to a fixed (and unchangeable) quality of themselves, while students praised for effort believe that their performance is subject to improvement.
Here’s an interesting video on feedback , for you, to watch.
Conclusion and my FUTURE PLANS
Here’s my idea about the future implementation of “growth mindsets” in my class.
This year, Greek NBA basketball player Giannis Antetokounbo, took the next step in his larger than life rise to NBA superstardom by winning the 2018-19 NBA Most Valuable Player award. Against all obstacles and odds!
Right on par, he isn’t satisfied with winning the MVP award. He wants more. He had a warning to the rest of the league during his acceptance speech on the Award Ceremony night, “This is just the beginning. My goal is to win a championship. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.” If there’s anything we know about the Greek Freak, it’s that when he sets his mind on something he usually gets it.
Here’s Giannis’ EMOTIONAL SPEECH – Most Valuable Player Award – 2019 NBA Awards
When I watched that video, I thought: “Let`s teach our students about Giannis! What an inspiring role model for them”!
Giannis, is a great example for my students to teach them the results of growth mindset.
Over the years, we all have to join the example of Giannis Adetokounmpo, in our schools! To teach our children how they can succeed and realize their dreams , by exploiting their talents, with faith, perseverance, hard work and morals! Yes, Giannis, is the bright example, in the dark years we live in. He proves that “ When there is a will, there is a way” ! On the way to growth, the essentials are: a loving family, supportive teachers and people who will believe in you, courage and perhaps a little audacity, great faith in yourself and your strengths , definitely, ethos and respect !
Thank you Pilgrims, Jim Wright and Jennifer Schmidt ,for the opportunity you have offered us!
As for me, stay tuned, for next school year’s projects that will wrap up growth mindset with providing steps on how to help students engage with influencers and how to measure and track results.