September will mark my tenth year teaching in my current school district and my fourteenth year teaching. It is overwhelming to look back at all of the different ways I have started the year. I don’t feel like any of my first days were spectacular. This year things will be different!
I have been doing a lot of reading about the growth mindset. I recently purchased Carol Dweck’s book Mindset:The New Psychology of Success and I think I have the gist. It is all starting to make sense now. I have been trying for years to convince students that making mistakes is the only way to learn and if you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t learning. If you haven’t been reading about the growth mindset and fixed mindset, the premise is that once you believe that your intelligence can’t grow, it can’t (fixed mindset). You need to believe that learning comes from challenges and learn from the mistakes you make along the way (growth mindset). Great! Now that I had some research for these ideas I want a way to start off the year teaching them.
Two years ago I attended the Building Learning Communities Education Conference, while I was there I attended a session where the presenters were doing The Marshmallow Challenge. In the Marshmallow Challenge teams of four are given tape, 20 pieces of spaghetti, string, and a marshmallow. The task is to build the tallest structure that will support the marshmallow in 18 minutes. There is a great TED talk by Tom Wujec that is also on the website. Tom stresses the importance of just trying something as soon as you have the idea, making a mistake and learning from it.
I’m really excited to start my year this way. I know there’s not a lot of math, but I want to set a tone. I want my students to be ready to accept a challenge, to make mistakes, and to learn.