Change is Scary…

“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.” 

As most of you know, I am geeky.  Many people tell me that my geeky is good, but I feel others look at me as an outlier.  I haven’t always been this geeky.  It has developed over time.  It all began when I was struggling to get my kids to meet their growth targets.  It turned out that the systemic way we were teaching wasn’t working, but this conversation began a fire within me that although scary at times has spurred me into a direction I never considered.  My geek is not about a need to consume information, but about a need to be better at my craft, to better meet the kids of those in my care and to stay on the cutting edge of what research or other experts in the field are saying is working.  My geek is about being innovative and that is where this series of posts begins.

My co-worker, Nancy, shared a book with me that I have been staring at for a couple of months.  It is one of those books you carry around for the summer, with the best of intentions to read.  The author, George Curous, has started a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) to process the chapters and I have decided to participate in the MOOC, along with stretching both my technology skills and comfort zone by joining a Voxer group with other professionals around the country and working towards my professional goal of blogging more regularly.  The next few posts will be focused on the book The Innovator’s Mindset and what I am learning, thinking about and considering for my own practice.

Up until now, I have not thought of myself as a change agent.  I have thought of myself as possibly a perfectionist.  Although in other areas of my life, that would not ring true.  Just ask my honey.  When I think of change it scares me a little, but when I think of innovation I am invigorated.  I guess changing my mindset shifts the purpose of the change.  I’ll get on to reading the next section and will share what I am learning.

How do you feel about change?  Do you see it as scary?  An opportunity to do something amazing?  Just another thing we do?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!



It’s not just me…

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I guess I haven’t been the only one pondering teacher mindset.  Ian at Byrdseed has written a great post comparing the work we do with students to improve their mindset and how our own mindset impacts how that may look in our classrooms.  So often, we put others first.  A wise soul once said to me, “It’s easy to look out the window.  It’s much more difficult to look in the mirror.”  I challenge you to read the post by Ian at the Byrdseed blog and reflect on your own inner monologue.  For myself, I would rather live in abundance than always seeing my deficits.  I would love to hear your thoughts…

Check out Ian’s blog at:

What does mindset have to do with it?

Mindset is something we have talked about for years.  Many of us have read Carol Dweck’s work and have also heard about Jo Boaler’s work around Mindset in Mathematics.  Given this work, and the fact that we tend to put others before ourselves, it’s not unlikely that thinking about our own mindset and approach to our learning hasn’t been the top of our priority list.  baby-boomer-entreprenturial-mindset


Check out this great post from Teach Boost about teacher mindset and some considerations to use with each other to ensure that we maintain a Growth Mindset about our own practice, rather than getting stuck when change paralyzes us.


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The team at PERTS—Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales—has been researching growth mindset for quite some time, and their findings on student and educator learning capacity are fascinating.

Recently we sat down with PERTS’s senior program manager Jacquie Beaubien to talk about growth mindset. Because we at TeachBoost are proponents of continuous professional learning, we were excited to talk through the research that supports taking a growth mindset approach to teacher development.

Here’s what we learned.

What is growth mindset?

“Growth mindset is the belief that abilities—specifically intelligence—are malleable,” says Beaubien. “It’s the belief that anyone can improve their intelligence.”

Why is growth mindset in educators so important?

“It’s a great benefit to anyone to develop a growth mindset,” says Beaubien. “Evidence shows it’s a positive perspective to have on someone’s abilities.”

We agree. In order to improve practice, students, teachers, and leadership teams need to believe that anyone can improve, including themselves and their peers.

Finally, says Beaubien, “it’s important for students to see that their teachers fully embrace the belief that everyone can learn.”

How can instructional leaders promote and support growth mindset in their teachers?

Beaubien offers 5 helpful tips for principals, coaches, and educator teams:

1. Deliver frequent, formative feedback.

“There’s a lack of consistent formative feedback in the teaching profession,” says Beaubien. “Teachers get trained and given the content, but they’re not given many opportunities to improve their teaching. Most models for evaluating teachers are like old model of evaluating students—summative. It can feel very threatening.”

Just like students need formative assessments and personalized learning plans, it is also critical that educators get frequent feedback on their performance, know where they need to focus their efforts, and understand the steps to take to improve their practice. “One thing I really love about TeachBoost,” says Beaubien, “is that it’s a platform for giving formative feedback, making mentor matches, and planning goals and next steps.”

2. Be deliberate about offering growth mindset praise that supports growth mindset.

Phrases like “you’re a natural” or “you’re really smart” are complimentary, however they suggest that a person’s abilities are innate, or inherent; fixed. Growth mindset praise is more nuanced. “You need to praise the process: the steps someone took to get to the desired end result. Effort is a part of that, but not the whole.”

3. Embrace the idea that learning occurs when one is stretched beyond their comfort zone.

In other words, make room for you and your teachers to make mistakes. “One thing educators work on is helping students get comfortable making mistakes,” says Beaubien, “but the same must be true for teachers. Teachers are facing challenges like adopting the Common Core, integrating technology tools— these introduce significant changes to most classrooms.”

Speaking from an edtech perspective, we must embrace the belief that all educators can leverage technology in powerful ways in the classroom. A tool like TeachBoost helps leaders consider everyone in the school as a learner, which means everyone has to be comfortable making mistakes.

4. Take advantage of the Growth Mindset for Teachers kit.

To help educators foster a growth mindset in their students, PERTS created a free set of courses, lessons, and best practices for use in the classroom. The kit walks teachers through the fundamentals of a growth mindset, and has activities teachers can try out in their classroom.

5. Leverage the Growth Mindset for Educator Teams course.

In addition to the classroom-oriented mindset kit, the free Educator Teams course covers setting up PLCs and PD around growth mindset, offers suggestions on how to introduce this to the whole school, and includes stories from teacher teams who’ve done this work.

PERTS encourages teachers to conduct peer visits to observe others working through the kits, and they provide a framework and downloadable worksheets for delivering teacher feedback. We really like this for two reasons:

  1. Teacher evaluation forms aren’t always great fits for peer visits, so it’s great to have a new resource for intervisitations.
  2. Because mindset work is new and nuanced, it’s helpful that PERTS put together these guiding documents.

Beaubien suggests starting with a small group of self-motivated teachers as well as a principal or school leader.

Visit the Mindset Kit website to learn more and sign up for their fantastic newsletter.

Visible Learning for Literacy


I am extremely intrigued by this new book by Fischer, Frey and Hattie.  Having spent the last year studying Visible Learning, I thought this would be a logical next step in better understanding the links to literacy.  Only being a short way in, I am struck by the importance of relationships and credibility.  How can we create a system where rigorous academics can co-exist with relationship and teacher credibility?  So often, these ideas are in direct contrast to each other.  It seems, at least to me that with strong relationships, the academics will follow close behind.  However, without relationships, academics will struggle.  Teachers are often put in a place where academics are the focus and what’s measured.  The pressure of the expectations often shifts a person’s focus from the relationship to a checklist of getting things completed.

As a coach, I encounter this struggle regularly and struggle myself with how to shift one’s perspective.

Fischer and Frey offer some suggestions on building the relationship with students.  Many of them are quite simple.

  1. Display student work
  2. Share class achievements
  3. Speak to the accomplishments of all students
  4. Be sincere in their pride in their students and make sure that pride is based on evidence of student work, not generalized comments
  5. Look for opportunities for students to be proud of themselves and of other students or groups of students.
  6. Develop parental pride in student accomplishments
  7. Develop pride in improvement in addition to the pride in excellence.

I’ll keep reading and update as I learn more.  What questions do you still have about this topic?  What struggles do you have in your own classroom?

Helpful Resource to Make Sense of Readers Workshop

ask-question-2-ce96e3e01c85a38a0d39c61cfae6d42cJennifer Serravallo, author of The Reading Strategies Book and Conferring with Readers (coauthored with Gravity Goldberg); and The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook, Grades K–2 and Grades 3–6 has a wonderful podcast.  I know many people may be thinking “What in the world is a podcast?”, or “I don’t have time for that!”

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I think of Podcasts like radio shows.  Because of the amazing technology we have at our fingertips, we can choose what we want to listen to, rather than be at the mercy of what is on the radio.

I know that Jen understands the intensity of the classroom because each podcast is 5 minutes or less.  I plug them into my car and listen to a couple on the way to work.  She tells what question she is answering in the episode notes, so you can search for specific things that are on your mind and relisten to episodes as the need arises.  I appreciate the realistic nature of her answers.  She knows how busy teachers are and gives the nuts and bolts to an issue.  I have honed my knowledge and taken away some great snippets.

You can search for her in the iTunes store, or on the Podcast app if you are an iOS user.  The Podcast is called “Teachers Ask Jen Serravalo”.  You can read more at The Teacher Learning Sessions website.  She begins a new season soon, so if you have a burning question, you should submit it here.  Maybe your question will highlight the next episode!

Welcome Back to School!

Where has the time gone?  Honestly, I am not sure but we’re back, the kids are back and there is energy in the building again.  Thank goodness!  Even though we’re able to get so much done when the kids aren’t here, it is a quiet and lonely place without them.  I am grateful for the time to recharge, but am excited to begin another year.

As we shift our assessment practices within the district, I found this article from Jennifer Serravallo (The Reading Strategies Book) about beginning the year in the Reading Workshop.  She shares some easy and excellent strategies to get to know your kids as readers and better understand their needs, without a lot of formal assessment.  I love the idea of sitting with our readers, rather than drowning them (and us) in assessments.