Friday, January 29, 2016

Exploring Our Growth (Both academic and emotional!)

Hello families!  

We had another special moment that I wanted to share as fully with you as possible.  So, instead of fitting this in to a reflection page, I will share the experience as it unfolded.

Since each member of our class is their own person, we have many abilities, strengths and places to grow.  In the spirit of fostering a growth mindset (vs a fixed mindset)  I wanted to bring up a discussion about some patterns I have seen friends try out or fall into that could be making life harder for them.  I also wanted to honor the perseverance I have seen, especially in students who are trying their best while their memory and fine motor muscles grow.  So here is the mini story I shared:

Three Kindergarten friends: Sam, Chrystal and Sylvia.  Sam can have a hard time getting his pencil to do what he expects.  When he writes and draws, it doesn't end up looking as he had wanted, since his hand muscles are still growing.  (Then I drew a line next to him that went up about a third of the board to show how hard that makes journaling for him.)

Crystal can draw really well and is able to get her pencil to do what she wants.  She also knows all her letter sounds, but each time the class is about to journal she says she isn't good at journaling, the can't write and she hates journaling.  (For each of these three comments, I drew a line going up, so that in the end the hardness level was about two thirds of the way up the board.)

Sylvia's hands can get her pencil to do what she planned, but she sometimes has a hard time remembering the letter sounds.  He memory part of her brain still needs more experiences with letters in order to remember the sounds more often.  (I drew a line up about a third of the way, to show how hard journaling feels for her.)

After this, I asked if friends could raise their hand to answer this question:  
What is making journaling hard for each of these friends?
Gabriel shared an answer for Sam: His hand is not ready yet.
Reese shared an answer for Chrystal: Her choices are stopping her.
Grace shared an answer for Sylvia: She hasn't had enough practice with letters.

Here we talked a bit about how memory and choice are different things connected to your brain, and that the choices are something you can be in charge of. Next I asked the students to be brave to do our morning share in partnerships, and to speak to their partner about whether any of this has ever been something you have felt, and if they connected with any of these students' stories.

Next I asked if there were a few friends who might feel comfortable sharing what they had just said with the whole group.  I was excited and surprised at how many friends wanted to share.  Below are the words of the children who volunteered, and my questions.  It became a neat moment of friends sharing their thought process and reasoning, which has been a helpful model for all of the class members.

Gabriel:  My hand kinda slides the wrong way when I’m trying to draw, and I can’t remember the sounds.  I know my hand is still practicing.
Jennifer: So you don’t have the problem of being mad at yourself so much?
Gabriel: No.
Jennifer: Why not?
Gabriel: I don’t say it to myself- since I don’t need it.  I don’t need to say it to myself, since it would just make things worse.
Olivia: I kind of forget the sounds when I’m trying to write sometimes.
Jennifer: Do you get mad at yourself?
Olivia: No
Jennifer: Why not?
Olivia: Because I keep on trying to get the right sound.
Kale: I‘m forgetting and my hand forgets to be in control.
Jennifer: Do you get mad at yourself?
Kale: Unh-unh.  I‘ll just try again.
Reese: My hand sometimes forgets which way the letters go and sometimes it forgets and slips and forgets which way the letters go so I have a problem with my writing.
Jennifer: Is that the only thing that’s making journaling hard for you?
Reese: Well, sometimes I make- say bad words to myself. 
Jennifer: So then how does that add to your hand problem?
Reese: It makes it harder for me- because I’m like saying I can’t journal well.  And I say it lots of times in my head and then I just realized that I shouldn’t say those words and then I just have the hand problem.  And then I just start writing, and if it comes back, like each time, and sometimes my hand gets better and then it forgets again. 
Jennifer: So will the 'mad at yourself' come back?
Reese: Sometimes it does come back.
Jennifer: What will you do then?
Reese: Then I realize I shouldn’t do those words again and it starts all over.
Jennifer: This make think that we might need some Encouragement Buddies.  What could an Encouragement Buddy do for you?
Gabriel: Have them be brave.  Like encourage them means you be brave and then they’ll be brave.
Brian: It’s like telling them, “You could do it.”  Just so they can, well, so that the thing will go away.  You know when they say, “You can’t do it" to theirself.
Jennifer: Reese, would you want an encouragement buddy for journaling?
Reese: Yes. 
Jennifer: Who could be his encouragement buddy?
(Almost the whole class raised hands.  Then Reese asked Mason.)
Kellan: I sometimes feel that’s my hand's not working when I’m trying to draw and they usually make a bunch of squiggly lines. 
Jennifer:  Do you sometimes get mad at yourself?
Kellan: Not really, I just keep on trying to make it- what I’m trying to make.
Leah: My feels were that I want to stop saying that I can’t be a good writer to myself.
Jennifer: Do you have ideas on how you’re gonna stop?
Leah: Stop thinking about it. 
Grace: I’m having the problem with my hand because every time that I draw a eye, it keeps getting squished together.
Jennifer: Do you get mad at yourself?
Grace: No because I know I’m trying my best.

So many brave people to share!  As a final step, I asked if the class felt brave, and when they did, I asked some students to go get their journals.  For each friend, I opened it to their first page.  Many of them were not writers on that first journaling day way back in September, and then we looked at their most recent work and saw what a change that has taken place.  For each of the journals, I asked if the student had grown in their abilities. YES!  Each person has, in many ways! 

You can see that the larger lesson for this is to help the students realize the power that they can take on, even when there are factors that they cannot control, like fine motor readiness, or experience connecting to letter sounds. We are in charge of our choices, reactions and attitude! (And this is the tough work, isn't it!?)  Because so many students shared, it ended up helping the class see that so many friends are on their own journey, and to realize that even others, who seem "good at writing" also feel unsure, at times.  

We hope to continue to highlight that the larger goal in our work (and what is important to be able to continue learning) is to ask if you are trying your best each day, and if you are progressing in your journey to become better at each skill. ( I also mentioned that many people go to school for decades to become a "good writer" and that each of these students are just at the beginning of those decades!)

A final step that I hadn't planned, but that came out of the discussion naturally, was that many students requested encouragement buddies for various parts of our day that challenge them personally- journaling, math activities or for when they make a "mistake".  Almost the whole class was raising their hand to volunteer to be an Encouragement Buddy, which was so special to see.  We will look forward to see how that relationship helps.

I hope this gives you a little bit of understanding and helps add to your own family discussions.  These people who don't have many years under their belts, are already showing such wisdom, perseverance and care.  It's inspiring to be around!

Wishing you a lovely weekend!  Love, Jennifer

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I'm so glad you are discussing this in class. I think it's important for the kids to realize that their peers may be experiencing similar feelings and frustrations. I like the dialogue in that it provides them ideas (from friends) on how they can handle certain challenges or feelings. I think it also helps to teach them that they are not alone. We will definitely continue this discussion at home. Thanks again.