I have migrated to a new site! Please find me at https://mandyfroehlich.wordpress.com/. As of April 15th, 2017 this site will no longer be updated. Thank you!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I'm Not a Natural

A few weeks ago, my friend George Couros wrote a blog post called No Shortage of Road and reading it made me smile because I could really relate to it. Basically, the post is about how he used to be able to run marathons and loved running, and now he doesn't and it's painful, and how sometimes it's hard to see what's behind you because you're so busy looking at the people passing you. So true, and it's inspired me to write my own blog post.

There are quite a few things that I am not a natural at. Things I have tried and they just do not come easy to me: public speaking, chemistry, and running (among others). I like to believe that I have a pretty healthy growth mindset, so it doesn't mean that I can't do these things, it just means that I need to work much harder in order to do them well. Public speaking is a prime example. As a kid, I didn't even talk to people let alone talk in front of people, so when I went to college I took every public speaking course I could find in order to conquer that fear. Now, I can speak in public and am often in front of people, so I joke and say that I live my entire life outside my comfort zone. I am not a natural public speaker, but I can speak publicly.

Running is another one of those things that I am not a natural at and I want so badly to be. Not too long ago I was in a #personalizedPD chat with my friend Jay Posick and he joked about getting back from something like a 12 mile run just for fun. JUST. FOR. FUN. And I instantly thought to myself, I could never do that and was disappointed in my meager three miles that I run (even my growth mindset needs a check sometimes).

I am not a natural runner. I say that because I need to work hard at it. I've been running for two years and there are times when I can't even run the three miles and need to walk some of it. I have asthma and sometimes that acts up, or I get those ridiculously painful cramps in my side (does anyone know how to stop that?!?). But, in looking back, I have come a long way from when I began. At first, I wouldn't even run outside because I knew I wasn't fast and I knew my running form was less than stellar. One of my favorite Friends episodes is where Phoebe tells Rachel to go outside and run even though she looks strange doing it. She says, "It doesn't matter if people are staring at you because it's just for a second and then you're gone!"

When I look back at where I started to how far I've come, I'm proud of the work I've done even though I might not be as good of a runner as others who have been running for the same amount of time. There have been times where it has been literally painful (today was one of those days), but the progress I've made has been from hard work, ignoring any feelings that people might be staring, and knowing that running is good for me mentally and physically. I'm more proud of the progress I've made in this area than I am in other activities that have come easy to me. I have failed a million times at running my entire three miles, but the times that I have run the three miles are enough of a success to keep me motivated to continue to work hard and get better.

It's important that we teach learners (adults and children) that it's not about comparing yourself to someone else, but it's about recognizing our strengths and weaknesses and and the work you do to grow in these areas. And it's not about the growth you do in relation to someone else's standard, but the progress you make according to your own standard. We can choose to use our weaknesses as excuses for why we will never be any better, or we can use them as motivation for growth and change. Just because something might not come naturally to us, doesn't mean we can't create our own type of success, and what might be considered successful to one might not be for another, but we should be celebrating those successes anyway. 

Image result for growth mindset

Friday, October 28, 2016

We Underestimate our Students

I always felt like one of my strengths as a teacher was that I always had high expectations for my students. I never lowered expectations based on a specific class or student. I expected them to grow and make progress (at their level), to enjoy learning (most of the time-we all have our days), and that each of them had strengths that made our class the community it was. Students would rise to the expectations. There was never a reason to lower them. I tried hard not to underestimate what my students could accomplish.

Yesterday, I was shopping with my daughter and I ran into one of my former pre-service teacher students from the university. She's a super girl, appropriately candid and always asked great questions. She will be a fantastic teacher. She was in one of my first classes I taught, and we all know as teachers how first classes have the ability to create a special imprint. When I asked her how her semester was going, she replied with "It's a joke". Immediately, I jumped to the conclusion that it was a lot of work, that she was swamped and struggling to keep up, therefore: a joke. When I asked her some clarifying questions, I found that by "joke" she meant that her classes were too easy. She said she was able to get all her work done at her job, hence the reason she was out shopping instead of studying like a college student should. She said that she thought her classes would be more rigorous. Instead, she barely has any work to do at all.

I'm not going to lie, I was a little shocked, but my pre-service students always continue to amaze me. It's one of the reasons that I love teaching those classes. Then I realized that I had totally underestimated her because she is a "college student" and I had fixed her with a get-out-of-as-much-work-as-possible stamp, which was wrong of me to do. In this case, she WANTS to learn. She WANTS to be a great teacher. Her classes are not providing her with enough to keep her learning, and it's irritating to her. IRRITATING TO HER that she can't get the learning she needs to be awesome (which she will be anyway because she will make it happen on her own - she'll be awesome in spite of school).

I feel like we find that same thing with teachers in the field. They have a window where they are excited and want to do what's best for their students but are not provided with the training and tools they need to move forward, so some burn out and some become cranky, but they don't start out that way.

As for the high expectations for students part, it was a good gut check for me. I was discussing this with a teacher at the beginning of school. He's a great guy, came into the teaching field from the private sector and is doing his absolute best while not yet having his teaching degree (he's working on that). When I asked him how it was going (he was first-year teacher exhausted, we can all relate) he said, "I don't know. I think I just need to lower my expectations for how my students should act". I told him absolutely not, if anything, raise them. Have faith that your students will rise to the occasion and will probably surprise you by bypassing your expectations and coming in with ideas and behaviors that are better than expected. Yet, I did the same thing with one of my students, underestimated her because she is a college student.

Image result for high expectations for students