Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fostering a growth mindset

6th grade students use a growth mindset to solve a challenge
     Teacher and student growth mindset statements - side by side
 Based on research by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues, we know that students with a growth mindset - the belief that intelligence is not just something that you are born with but that you can continue to develop- have higher levels of success than those with a fixed mindset.  Teaching our students about this concept has the potential to help them persevere through tough tasks, have a more positive outlook, and ultimately be more successful in their career and everyday lives. Researcher John Hattie says a student's  growth mindset won't necessarily be as beneficial as it could be, unless the adults of influence in a students life have one as well.  If adults demonstrate a fixed mindset in regards to their students, the effect size of a growth mindset is minimal.
As a staff we know that having a growth mindset about our students is critical to their success.  We also know that to live the growth mindset ideology, we must have the same beliefs about ourselves and our colleagues. If we were to have a fixed mindset
 about students that would result in treating students who struggle like they will always struggle.  We must remember that if we treat students like they will succeed, they will. A fixed mindset is not helpful in teaching. If students have a fixed mindset about themselves we must remember that it might actually be due to the messages that we send them. 
Knowing this, and after collecting some of our own data, we worked with Dweck and Hattie's ideas in our most recent staff meeting.  Teachers came to common understanding about what it means to have a growth mindset, why it is important, and then they were asked to put those ideas into practice.  They 
demonstrated the qualities and the effect of a 
growth mindset to complete a collaborative challenge and all were successful.
They then discussed taking a big idea and breaking it down into an actionable step that they could implement immediately in their classrooms. These steps will be used to coach students to try different approaches to working and learning so that they are thinking more deeply. Staff also discussed doing the same for themselves and reflected on how that might help them to adjust instruction. Specific strategies were then shared.  
 During one of my classroom visits the next day, I was delighted to find one of our teachers taking his students through the same activity. I was able to see first hand the direct application of staff to student learning.
 I see evidence of our growth mindset approach every day at   BCEMS. Our teachers have a growth mindset about themselves, our students and each other. The beliefs we all hold have a dramatic impact on student achievement. What a fantastic community BCEMS is to learn in!                                                                                                                                                                   
After completing a journal writing activity, 6th grade students add to the growth mindset statements written by their teachers. They then studied and talked about the statements in preparation for their collaborative challenge.  Initially, they doubted their ability to complete the challenge, but all experienced success! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In the Art Room: 7th Grade Earth Art 
Ms. Feeser

Students were fascinated by the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy, an environmentalist who creates and photographs sculpture made from all natural materials: snow, ice, leaves, bark, rock, clay, stones, feathers, petals, and twigs. Students discussed themes throughout his work, in addition to studying his use of the elements and principals of design. Students were then given the opportunity to work outside in small groups, creating temporary works of art from materials they found “on site”. I think you’ll agree, the results are stunning!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day Ceremony

Veterans Day is an excellent opportunity for schools and communities to come together in a purposeful way. Participation in these events enhance community pride in their schools, enhance students pride in their work and provide a meaningful connection for all.  Although the parade was cancelled due to rain, the indoor assembly program provided an outstanding tribute to our Veterans.

As I entered the auditorium, I immediately was so proud of our students.  Their representation of our school was exemplary.  Many thanks to the community of Barre for your support and for inviting us to participate today. Thanks also to our band director, Ms. Matthews, for her leadership and dedication to our program. I'd also like to thank the students for their commitment and hard work, their parents (some who were able to chaperone today) and teachers for their support. Our entire school community benefits from this collaboration.

Students prepare in the band room for Barre's Veterans Day ceremonies. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

The importance of community connections 

During the month of October, nearly 200 Barre City Middle School students participated in a community/curricular connection experience.  Through connections with the Vermont Land Trust, we were able to establish a partnership with Bear Roots Farm, a local organic vegetable operation.  Bear Roots is doing amazing work and an absolute asset to the Barre community.  The owners, Jon and Karen, did not hesitate to enter into this collaboration with our school. 

Initially the connection was one of community service. Through our diverse personal learning plan curriculum we were excited to offer students an opportunity to learn more about civic responsibility.  Integrating these opportunities into our school days mean more opportunity to learn actively and helps our students understand the skills of active citizenship.  These opportunities give students a chance to reflect on what it means to be a responsible member of society. Facing five acres of land with row upon row of vegetables waiting to be harvested might have seemed a daunting task to some, but not to our students.  As I worked with the students and teachers I was thrilled to hear students making connections to the eco-system, sustainable agriculture, future careers, personal interests, wondering about how long the rows were, how many pounds each bag held, etc.  Even more inspiring was the collaboration and team work.  Every student participated.  Every student felt a sense of accomplishment. Over a period of three weeks, the PEAK and UJAMAA teams helped to harvest more than 6000 pounds of produce.

Active and engaged learning inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they are studying and allows them to see how ideas are connected. Bringing class content out to the field promotes collaboration, critical thinking and knowledge retention. The best community collaborations can bring two seemingly unrelated worlds together. 

Service learning provides opportunities for students to engage directly in their communities and meet community needs while enhancing their course work. It is important that, at the same time, students purposefully explore what civic responsibility means and the importance of both understanding and embracing this concept.  With community education as a framework, teams from our school are looking forward to expanding our learning opportunities for our children. We are grateful for Bear Roots Farm and their willingness to integrate their work into ours allowing for yearlong curricular opportunities for our students.