Saturday, 21 March 2015

Time to acknowledge Happiness

I went for a run this morning.  This is not entirely unusual, but today I had been awake for an hour and a half thinking about stuff before I left the house ... at 7am, on a Sunday.  What a waste of a good sleep-in opportunity!

As I was jogging through the sunrise, listening to my running playlist and noticing that no-one else was up, I realised that I felt happy.  Relaxed.  Content even.  Such a difference from the hour and a half I had just spent lying in bed but not relaxing.

This post is more about life lessons than formal education, but that is the whole point.  Learning isn't just in the classroom or lecture theatre.  Some of my hardest lessons in the last few years have been about life.  And they have been some of the most important things I have learned too.

What I remembered this morning was how important it is to notice those moments of happiness when they happen.  Often things are really busy, and there is so much going on in my head about what has happened,  and what is going to happen, and what I need to do to make it happen, or not happen as the case may be, that there is no space for what is happening now.  In psychologist-speak being able to look at that now is called mindfulness (I think), and I am very bad at it.  

It is so important to be able to find that clear space though.  

When I run, I need to go out for quite a while (as in an hour or so, not a marathon).  I spend the first bit running myself in and going through the things that have been bugging me, one by one, until I have some sort of resolution or action plan for each.  I need to know where I am going, so I always run the same basic route, because at this beginning point of my run I am not actually focussed on the run itself.  

Once I am about a third of the way around, I have to focus on the running as there is a bit of a hill and some blind corners, and it's a country road with no footpaths.  I have injured myself both going up this hill and stretching out and speeding up at the top before my legs were ready, so I have to really watch my technique here.  This is excellent, because if I haven't finished dealing with all my issues by then, I am forced to give up on them and ignore them.  And if they are so far down my priority list that I haven't got to them yet, they actually can't be that important.

Then I get to the top, and the fun bit.  This morning the birds were all out finding breakfast, so there were loads of them flying around.  The light was all pinky-sunrise and clear, and all the smells were variations of green.  This is where I find happiness.  Once I get around that top corner and onto the gravel road that comes back down I have dealt with the things that bother me, I don't have to think about technical stuff, I can just stretch out, turn the music up, look around at the empty countryside and feel good.

This is my time to find and notice and acknowledge happiness.

I think it is a really important part of life to have something or somewhere that you know you can be happy.  Somewhere that you can consciously let go of all the dumb stuff, and the niggly stuff, and the mundane.  For me, in my introverted little world, that means being alone and having space to open up my mind.  For you, it may be something completely different.  

But finding that place, each for themselves, is something that is actually very hard to learn, and yet so very important.

Where do you go to be happy?  Is it a conscious thing, or do you just fall into it by default and then remember, like me?  How did you learn to notice when you're happy?

And how do I set the timestamp to here, so it knows it is actually Sunday, and not Saturday like it says at the top?

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Fixed Mindset of Small Boys

The blue Toad has a fixed mindset.  

I was listening to the amazing, inspirational, Carol Dweck #caroldweck #growthmindset (I don't even know how hashtags work, but you never know...) talking about the difference in student attitudes to learning when they have a fixed mindset - either "I am excellent at this" or "I am totally crap at this", with no middle ground - or a growth mindset - "I don't know how to do this ... yet" - and seeing not only opportunities for my own personal growth, and how this could affect my teaching, but visioning the blue Toad and understanding that his mindset is almost totally fixed.

The blue Toad is a clever boy, he is talented at many things, but ever since he was small he has only attempted things once he knew in himself that he could do them, and do them well.  Luckily for him, he can do a lot of things well.  But when confronted with something he can't do well, first try, he refuses to try again and the feeling of total crapness overwhelms him to the point where he just doesn't know what to do with himself.

Until today, I had no idea what this meant, or what I could do to help him.  

I went to the professional development thing today.  I was inspired (that word again) by the obvious sense in what Carol Dweck and Guy Claxton #guyclaxton were explaining about their research and the implications for the education sector.  I could see how growth mindsets could be / are so incredibly vital for citizens of the future, where the only constant will be change, and the necessary life and job skill will be adaptability, and I saw the blue Toad lurking firmly at the extreme fixed end of that continuum.

I came home and watched an example of it, which couldn't have been scripted to prove the point more clearly:  

The pink Toad, who has been learning two different types of dancing for four years, was fitting the moves of her last year's show dance to a different song.  The blue Toad decided he wanted to do it too.  He was taught the moves and was doing quite well remembering them, in a five minute time frame, until he couldn't remember one, whereupon, because his sister attempted to help him, he threw himself on the floor and shouted that he was dumb at dancing and he hated it.

If I had videoed it, it would be the classic 'before'.  Now we have to work to make an 'after'.  This will be a challenge.  I am only just learning about this myself, and I need to put into practice what I am learning almost before I have learned it.  But I can see the absolute necessity of doing this.

So what I have learned is that:
Teaching is learning.  
But parenting is teaching and learning.  
Parenting is way harder.

Actually I think I knew that last bit already.

These are the links that Hobsonville Point Secondary School put up on Facebook today:
I really recommend them.

How are your small people?  How do you help them with learning?  Any comments (and advice) gratefully received.

Monday, 2 March 2015

On the riding of bicycles...

I was going to say, "the more things change, the more they stay the same", but that's not quite what I mean.  Things are both changing and staying the same, at the same time, but somehow, it is the melding of both that is really interesting.

I am enjoying being back in spaces and and times where I can interact with students and really teach them stuff.  It is just like riding a bike, in that I am finding it very natural to be in the role of guide and catalyst, and at times it seems that the intervening 9 years have little or no meaning in terms of my skills and abilities being unpracticed.  When I need them, there they are.  

And I remember all the reasons why I enjoyed teaching then, because they are the same reasons I am enjoying myself now.  (And while there were many reasons why I didn't want to return, they now seem to be far less relevant...)  I see students who are engaged with their education, both the what and the how; I can teach stuff which has meaning for me, which makes what we are doing far more interesting for both my students and myself; and I can see those lightbulbs going on, hear them say "that was really interesting", and know that each little step brings confidence.  I love being a catalyst for enthusiasm.

This all sounds extremely pink and idealistically fluffy, which is not at all what I intended.

Because / And yet, the reason I am able to be the kind of teacher I always want to be is that the context is so different.  

I am learning the value of students understanding their own learning.  They know what they are doing and why they are doing it.  Now I have to learn to tap into it within my teaching.

I am learning about co-teaching.  The why of it is just so awesome and yet entirely sensible at the same time - practical, real-world application, anyone? - that it makes sense to me inherently.  The how of it is where I am definitely still in baby-steps; so far I can manage the turn-taking type strategy, where we are both on the same big thematic page, but we each have our own text boxes ... the other models are still on the way. 

In some ways, I think it is easier for me to do this learning than it might be for other more established teachers.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Mainly, as the school is establishing itself, it is a big adventure for everyone, not just for me, and we all have that feeling of new and different.  Once the school has a full complement of students, and teachers have been teaching in this environment for a longer period of time, the adventure atmosphere will inevitably wear off, simply because there will be experience to fall back on.  This will also make it harder for teachers new to the school to assimilate, I feel.  At the moment, I am on a huge learning curve, but so is everyone else, and so I don't feel as out of place as if I were the only one.  

Also, because I have been out of the game for so long, I fully expect to be doing a lot of learning.  Someone who is simply making a career progression will not necessarily have that same mindset, as they will of course feel confident in their abilities and knowledge, and so to head back to not-quite-but-nearly the beginning will be a lot more demanding. Because I presume it will be challenging, at least I have a mindset to meet that challenge.

I'm not entirely sure this was where I originally intended on going with this.  But I do know that it is because the context has changed, that I am able to place landmarks using the things I know already.  To go back to the cycling analogy, I still have all the skills of riding a bike, only now I am taking it off-road and along mtb trails rather than sticking to conventional roads.  

Hopefully I won't crash as often within the metaphor as I do when I literally go out to the forest...