Monday, March 25, 2013

The Power of Yet Slice of Life Challenge 2013 #25 of 31

"Mrs. Johnson, this is too hard.  I can't do it."
"I don't get this!"

When I hear this in my classroom, I sense the feeling of helplessness coming from my students.  Often when faced with a challenge, my young learners give up hope, believing that they are incapable of completing a task.  Based on Carol Dweck's work, Peter Johnston calls this a fixed mindset.  When encountering difficulty, (they) view the difficulty as failure, question their ability, assign blame for failure, and cease acting strategically.  (pg. 23)

What I hope for my students (and other people in my world) is a dynamic mindset, one where they can monitor themselves, draw upon strategies, and see themselves as being successful.

The power of the word "yet" stayed with me after reading Opening Minds this summer.  It  changed the way I talk to my students.  Instead of answering, "Of course you can do it!", I now say, "You might not be able to do it yet, but we are going to work together and figure it out.  Pretty soon, this won't be hard for you."  Together, we are changing the mind-set in our classroom through our conversations and practices.

Personally, the power of "yet" has played over and over in my mind this semester as I began my doctoral studies.  I have always been one of those people who could "do school."  I got good grades without too much trouble.  I'm sure others saw me (and I saw myself) as a successful student.  I knew going into this class that it would be a challenge.  It would require a lot of reading, writing, time,  I was pretty confident I was up to the challenge.

After reading the first research article, I began to doubt my abilities.  Academic research is far different from the type of reading I typically do.  I found myself reading with my computer by my side, looking up words, scribbling their meanings into the margins, trying to keep everything straight.  To be honest, I asked myself if I really thought I could do this.  Here I am, 50 years old, starting a doctoral program, stretching my brain in ways it hasn't been stretched before.  What was I thinking?

I identified with my students.  I was telling myself, "I can't do it."  I was afraid.

Then I stopped.  I did not want to be that person.

And the lightbulb went off.  Yes, this is hard right now, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.  I used the word "yet" for me.

I don't understand this yet.

I gave myself permission to struggle, to let go of perfection, and give myself time.  I knew hoped that if I kept at it, researchers, theories, and new vocabulary would start to fall into place.  And it has!  (Thank goodness!)  I'm beginning to recognize bits of information from one article that connect to other articles.  Some of the academic vocabulary is becoming familiar enough that I don't have to look it up every time.  And, I'm beginning to recognize researchers' names with their studies.  One of these days, I might be able to spout off names and studies as well as the year they were published like I hear others do.  I'm no expert, but I am making progress.  There is hope!

It's been interesting to watch myself as a learner.  It gives me a chance to reflect on the learners in my classroom, their frustrations, fears, and successes.  None of us wants to be a failure.  Unfortunately, some of us have been told too many times that we can't do it, or haven't been given the opportunity (or time) to try.

Since reading Opening Minds and MindSet, the word "yet" had transformed my thinking and my teaching.  I use it whenever I can:  talking to my students, my children, my husband, my friends, and myself.  It gives me hope and makes me look forward to what is yet to come in my life.

If you haven't had a chance to read either of these books, I highly encourage you to do so.

Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting The Slice of Life Challenge.






9 comments:

  1. That is a positive way to view a current situation. And it is true, over time we can achieve goals and learn new skills. I love the outlook. I remember my difficulty with grad school in the beginning but things did finally gel for me.

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  2. How uplifting to read how you used the same technique on yourself that you are using with students. Makes me want to get back in the classrom....but will be satisfied reading interesting posts like yours. Jackie http://familytrove.blogspot.com/

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  3. I love that you are giving yourself and your students permission to admit that something is difficult but know that you can get there together. Yet is a powerful word, as your slice proved. I haven't read either of the books you suggested. I guess my summer reading list is getting longer!

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  4. Yeah Julie, I'm so proud of you for starting your doctoral program. I love Peter's stance on, 'yet' and how you are also applying it in what you are doing. Your students will profit. xo

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  5. It is always good to do something that reminds us what it is like to learn something new. Yet has so much power. Way to be a learner!

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  6. I've been reading Opening Minds this year and I just added Mindset to my to-read list. "Yet" is my new favorite word! I enjoyed hearing about how you found it helpful in your own life, in addition to your teaching!

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  7. Loved, loved loved OPENING MINDS last summer. And I agree with you-- YET is an amazing word!

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  8. This is a late comment, but I went through that same thing in my MA and PhD work! Keep in mind that many of the folks you hear quoting studies with names and years are pulling from their focus area, not the broad universe of all studies in education. Some of the smartest faculty I knew could not do that outside their research/teaching areas! When it kicks in, though, and you can quote/summarize that way off the top of your head, it is exciting! (geek much?!)

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