“But Ms. Carriger–I’m not even ‘compliant’!” How do I build a growth mindset in my classroom? ~ a blog in 900 words or less…

In the beginning of the school year I said I would start blogging, and this is my first post since. My bad! Unfortunately my Father passed away September 23rd, and my life has changed. I’ve been home sick, and believe it or not, I actually rested! Lol, sometimes the body just does quit. Before you read further here is a disclaimer: the thoughts written here are my own, based on my experiences teaching in an urban community for 10 years. They are real and unapologetic, and are not going to be diplomatic. This is my lived experience and how I see it, through my lens. Please share your thoughts with me as well.

I was just thinking about this year so far, and the CLR (culturally and linguistically responsive teaching) work I’ve been implementing in my class this year.

Ok. Change is HARD!

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, how in the world do our students go to 7 different teachers each day, each with their own style of teaching, some understanding them and knowing them, others don’t–and focus on their education? Oh, and let’s not forget middle school drama, and whatever may be happening at home.

And they DO. Most of our middle schoolers DO. Except….I am battling the battle of low school esteem in our young people. I’ve been fighting this battle since I started teaching, but only became aware of how to name it and what it really is when I read Dr. Emdin’s book: For White Teachers Who Teach in the ‘Hood…and the Rest of Ya’ll Too. The battle children wage each day for whom their understanding of school is…well really? To survive the epidemic of low expectations of them.

Our children are complex, and they live in an increasingly complicated world. So what did I do when one of my 7th graders started “flaming” me? In the past, I would’ve stopped, and started deep breathing because I didn’t and couldn’t say what I was thinking. Now? I laughed. Went over, gave her a hug, asked her if she could stop feeling salty for just one minute and let me know what was wrong. She was so surprised, and she did. We discussed it together. And then she started working on the project we were doing in the class. Without my asking her. Simple? No. I’m learning how to stop my initial, biased reactions. And it is hard.

We recite our creed  (thank you Coach McKenzie for sharing your wonderful creed in your book!), call and response style, on chairs and counter tops. The children have Professional Peer Partners and they have their own handshake. I use call and response based on whatever theme/thought I want to convey to get our students’ attention and to send a message. Students are doing “give one, get one” creating their own questions to test and share with their peers. They move purposefully throughout the classroom, giving “the handshake” we decided on, asking questions, giving feedback. All ideas from colleagues, stuff I research and think about, and mostly? Mostly from Sharroky HollieI highly recommend…read his books!!

And now? We are working on building a growth mindset in our community. That we CAN. That we are FABULOUS. That we are BRILLIANT. That we are TALENTED. And we will SURPASS and EXCEED our dreams.

After Thanksgiving Break we started with Motivation Monday and Eric Thomas: “If you want to succeed as badly as you want to breathe…”. I created, from various materials, the building-a-growth-mindset that shows children the different levels towards education becoming learner-driven. And one child said to me, “But Ms. Carriger, I’m not even ‘compliant’ yet (lowest stage of Teacher-Centered learning, see chart). I said (Per Sharroky Hollie, VABB: Validate, Affirm, Build Bridges , “Baby, I love your honesty and how you just named how you were doing school, it shows how much you’re thinking about your education. Now you know, and YOU have the power to set, and achieve, your own goals.” As I looked at her writing goals, and all of my children in the room, I thought, wow–it took naming different stages, having a visual, and concrete goals along a continuum, for students to be aware. That’s it. And I’m doing this, now, in my 11th year teaching?!? (Told you I keep it real, especially with myself!)

Each day, students complete an exit ticket where they choose and answer one of 10-questions-to-develop-a-growth-mindset,  in “snapchat” style, and share with me their “story” about their learning that day growth-mindset-exit-slips_snapchate-style–all directing their thinking towards a growth mindset. As one child shared: “I picked #4,  (What “mistake” did you make that taught you something?) my mistake was constantly doubting myself, but I’ve stopped!” YES!!!

Not only are my students  sharing their “story” of learning, they remind me that it is time to complete the exit slip. I’m wondering: is this creating a closer connection with me?? NEXT STEPS: What else should I/could I be doing to connect/support my students each day?

I know I’m grateful, humbled, & inspired by the depth of the self-awareness, truth, & trust our children share each day. I realize that we are just beginning our journey towards building a growth mindset community, and I have so very much to learn! Please share with me your thoughts!!

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…

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Hey! So I’m about to start my 11th year teaching. I’ve been teaching middle school science in Minneapolis Public Schools my entire teaching career, mostly on the North/Northeast side of the city. I firmly believe that culture influences how we teach, learn, interact, think, and communicate with one another, and it is THE lens with which we look at the world. I am an Orthodox Jewish white woman, and my culture and religion impacts every part of my life!

This summer I facilitated a book club in my school.  We read Dr. Emdin’s book: “For White Folks that Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too”, all about Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education. Transformative!

Over the years, so many of my friends and colleagues suggested that I blog my experiences as an educator. And I haven’t, lol. Now though? Now I want to. This next year I will blog, narrate, share my experiences as I intentionally try to implement Reality Pedagogy in my 7th and 8th grade science classes. My principal keeps saying to all of us, it is all about building bridges. Of understanding, learning, connection, caring, change.

I’m expecting it to be messy, real, with many, many of the emotional and profound moments that continuously enrich and impact my life in the way that only teaching and learning with a diverse community of learners can bring. I know, that by the end of the year, I will learn far more than my students, who I interchangeably call my kids, and my scholars.

I’m really nervous AND I’m really excited…all at the same time! I know that I will take many risks, I will falter, I will make mistakes, I will fail. And I hope and pray that I will rise, I will become even stronger, and I will face my challenges as I strive bring the best me to our children that I serve. I have no choice. Right?!?

Join me on my journey!