Just for Teachers Update: Two Mindsets

Growth Mindset Book by Dr. Carol DweckThis week, I would like to focus on the two different mindsets that we commonly see in our students.  Through her research, Dr. Carol Dweck noticed patterns between our students with fixed mindsets and students with growth mindsets.  Our students who choose a fixed mindset display feelings of frustration when they are confronted with challenges. Often times,  they will shut down and stop trying.  When students choose a growth mindset, they embrace challenges and persevere in solving problems.

The graphic on our new growth mindset home page in the Just For Teachers Community is a great illustration of how our students respond to different situations with each mindset.  So many times we will hear: “She is just lazy” or “He just doesn’t care.”  While that may seem so, as we look at the graphic, we realize that it’s a mindset and it can be changed.

A video that I would like to share with you that really helped me understand the two mindsets is “The Power of Belief.”  This is a Ted Talk video by Eduardo Briceño, the CEO of Mindset Works. I hope you find this as powerful as “The Power of Yet”.

Please feel free to leave comments on this message and video.

About the author: Melanie Weitz serves as the Florida Department of Education’s teacher liaison. Before joining the department, Melanie taught fifth grade for seven years in the Tampa area.      

What I Know About Teaching Struggling Students (Part Two)

My final six observations of working with struggling students:

Image of dedicated eucator teaching a high school class.Struggling students need more modeling and practice than other students.  

This should go without saying, but I think in the era of academic rigor, we are trying so hard to get students to think for themselves, that we forget we have to teach them too. With struggling students it is very important to model skills and give them amble time to practice those skills. It is more beneficial to work with a struggling student for 10 minutes every day, than for 15 minutes three times a week. Because of memory and attention issues, they will retain information better if given in small but frequent sessions.

Struggling students become overwhelmed easily.

Just as we know to teach struggling students more complex material in smaller more manageable chunks, we need to remember not to overwhelm them in other areas as well. Struggling students may feel overwhelmed when given too much information at once, visual or oral. When explaining or displaying information, stick to the point, don’t ramble or add unnecessary information. Additionally, schedule physical breaks and provide incentives for students. Use preferred activities as a reward for getting work done.

Struggling students need consistent schedules and rules.

Because they are already struggling with learning difficulties, it becomes even more stressful if the game plan changes. Obviously there are some changes that cannot be avoided, but the more consistent you can keep your classroom and your expectations, the better they will do academically and emotionally. When they know they can count on working with you, or doing a preferred activity at a certain time, they are much more likely to become engaged in other areas.

Struggling students, (and others as well), learn best when learning is fun.

You would be amazed at how many learning activities can be done in a fun and interesting way.

I use or make up games, chants, and songs to teach and practice just about everything. The teacher internet sites have tons of suggestions. You can make any lesson into a fun activity.

Struggling students need to know you care about them.

I am always reminded of something one of my administrators said: “Remember to greet your students with a happy smile every morning; it may be the first smile they’ve seen that day.” Their parent may have yelled at them, the bus driver may have been grumpy, the kid next to them on the bus may have said something mean. You may be the one to start their day on a positive note. If you show you care about them, they will develop a better attitude about learning. And remember, many of their behavior issues may be due to the embarrassment they feel at being “behind” the other kids. “It’s better to be the bad kid than the dumb kid” is a frequent feeling. Knowing you care can make a big difference.

Struggling students need explicit directions on how to complete work and take tests.

Because of attention and processing issues, struggling students often have a difficult time with classwork and tests. They may need small group instruction on how to look for and find the correct answer. Often times they are overwhelmed with the amount of text on the paper, so they mark anything just to be finished. Improving their confidence with test taking, will in turn boost their achievement and increase motivation.

About the author: Penny Fish is a kindergarten and first grade ESE inclusion teacher at Triangle Elementary School in Mt. Dora, Florida.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood and Elementary Education as well as a Master’s Degree in Special Education and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. To read part one of “What I Know About Teaching Struggling Students” visit https://educatorsfl.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/what-i-know-about-struggling-students-part-one/

The Power of Yet

Melanie WeitzRecently, I received the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. The philosophy behind Dr. Dweck’s work has changed my life both personally and professionally. While the profession of teaching is one of the most rewarding, it is also one of the most evolving, always leaving room for us to grow. One of Dr. Dweck’s findings that challenges me to grow as a teacher is the power of “yet”.

After learning of the power of “yet” I wish that I took a bit more time before grading my papers. I wish that instead of a grade that has such finality, I gave only feedback and the opportunity for students to correct their papers. In the subject of writing this is common practice, but I wish I had done it in math and science as well.

Our students should know that just because they don’t understand a specific concept now, does not mean they never will. Dr. Dweck does a remarkable job of explaining how powerful one simple change in our classroom practice can be. “The Power of Yet” gives our students the motivation to keep learning and not give up. I invite you to take the time to watch this short video and consider how you will incorporate “The Power of Yet” in your classroom.

If you would like to share any thoughts or experiences with using the power of “yet” in your classroom, please leave a comment or email me at Melanie.Weitz@fldoe.org.

To read the January edition of the department’s Just For Teachers newsletter, visit http://fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7718/urlt/jftnews-feb515.pdf.

About the author: Melanie Weitz serves as the Florida Department of Education’s teacher liaison. Before joining the department, Melanie taught fifth grade for seven years in the Tampa area.               

Governor Rick Scott Proposes Historic Education Funding In The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” Budget

Governor Rick Scott’s “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget increases K-12 funding to a historic level of $19.75 billion, an increase of $261 per student over last year and $50 per student over the previous record in 2007-2008. In addition, the Governor’s budget also includes $20 million to create a Rapid Response Start-up Grant program for technical centers, $5 million to incentivize $10,000 STEM degrees at Florida Colleges, $80 million for Digital Classroom plans, and $23.5 million to expand Bright Futures to cover summer term courses.

Governor Scott said, “We want Florida to be the global leader for jobs, and we must have a skilled workforce to reach that goal. That is why I am proposing the highest level of funding in Florida history. Investing in education is the best way to ensure our students are gaining the knowledge they need to meet the needs of tomorrow’s employers. Thanks to Florida’s hard-working teachers and school leaders, our students already rank among the best in the nation, and we will keep working to provide record investments in education so our students have the resources they need to succeed.”

Governor Scott’s proposed budget includes:

  • $19.75 billion in total funding for K-12 public schools, an increase of $842.5 million;
  • $7,176 per student funding, an increase of $261 over the current school year and $50 above Florida’s previous record in 2007-2008;
  • $20 million to create a Rapid Response Start-up Grant program for technical centers;
  • $5 million to incentivize $10,000 STEM degrees at Florida Colleges;
  • $1 million to facilitate partnerships with high-tech Florida companies;
  • $80 million to assist districts in implementing their Digital Classroom plans;
  • $164.6 million for maintenance, repair, and renovation of public schools educational facilities;
  • $100 million for maintenance, repair, and restoration of charter schools;
  • $23.5 million to expand Bright Futures to cover summer term courses; and
  • The elimination of sales tax on college textbooks.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said, “I applaud Governor Scott for his focus on education in the ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget. Florida families deserve access to high-quality education opportunities, and his focus on technical centers, STEM education, and digital classroom initiatives is critical to help prepare Florida students for success in college, career and life. I am confident that this investment will pay off for years to come as the students who benefit from this funding will be able to contribute greatly to Florida’s economy once they enter the workforce.”

Gary Chartrand, State Board of Education Chairman, said, “Florida’s future depends on making key investments that give students the 21st century skills necessary to become a highly qualified workforce. By increasing K-12 per student and total funding, giving technical centers the ability to respond to the evolving workforce needs of their communities, helping districts implement Digital Classroom Plans and investing in charter school facilities, Florida is poised to remain a national leader in education and workforce development. I thank Governor Scott for his leadership in making education a top priority in Florida.”

“I applaud Governor Scott for his commitment to education in the proposed ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget and for recognizing the importance of our classrooms and the impacts they have on our economy,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie. “At Broward County Public Schools we believe in educating today’s students to succeed in tomorrow’s world.”

Ken Haiko, chairman of Renaissance Charter Schools, Inc. said, “Florida families value school choice and the charter schools that give them high-quality education choices. Governor Scott’s increase in fixed capital outlay for charter schools is a great first step that will allow Florida families to continue to have access to a variety of educational options that best fit their needs.”

Jennifer Grove, Community Development Manager, Gulf Power, and CareerSource Florida Board of Directors Strategic Policy Council Chairman said, “Governor Scott has proven to be focused on addressing the needs of our workforce. The Rapid Response Grant funding for Florida’s technical schools will put us head and shoulders above other states in matching the training of our state’s workforce to the ever-changing needs of industry.”

Christie Bassett, 2015 Florida Teacher of the Year, said, “Governor Scott’s long-standing commitment to education is reinforced in his ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget. His increases in per-pupil funding and total K-12 funding will help educators best prepare students for success now and in the future.”

Sandy Shugart, President of Valencia College, said, “The Governor’s budget for the Florida College System features a significant commitment to performance-based funding, a direction long supported by Valencia College and an essential feature of the state’s funding model going forward. I look forward to working with the Governor’s team and the legislature both to make performance funding a reality and to assure that all of the colleges in the system are competing for these funds on a level playing field.”

To learn more about the “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget, visit www.keepfloridaworking.com.

Reading: Enriching Art Lessons and Lives

The arts are often the first opportunity a student has to apply, practice and enhance the skills they are learning in core academic subject areas. As an elementary school arts educator, I try to incorporate reading into my lessons and often ask my students to write about their art process.

2015 Florida Teacher of the Year Christie Bassett visits students with First Lady Ann Scott during Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!

2015 Florida Teacher of the Year Christie Bassett visits students with First Lady Ann Scott during Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!

Sometimes I use artist biographies to have my students read to shoulder partners. Or, I might read aloud about the technique we would be using. Occasionally, I would find a magazine article on the subject of our art project and have my student take turns reading to the class.

My favorite types of books to share with my art students are ones illustrated by the book’s author. In addition to reading the book, I enjoy discussing with my students that many talented artists not only create the words on the pages, they also make the words come to life with their artwork!

This year, I’m on a leave of absence from the classroom so I can fulfill my duties as Florida’s Teacher of the Year. In August, I explained to my students that they would have a different art teacher for this school year. They kept asking me the same question over and over. To my surprise, no one asked “Will the new teacher paint with us?” or “Will the new teacher let us make ceramic projects?” or “Can we still use oil pastels?”

All of my students kept asking, “Will the new teacher READ to us?” Reading during art class has made so much of an impact on my students, possibly even more than I realized while I was teaching them.

In honor of the 2015 Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books by author/illustrators:

  • Animal Popposites: A Pop-Up Book of Opposites by author, illustrator & paper engineer Matthew Reinhart
  • Frederick written and illustrated by Leo Lionni
  • Jumanji written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar written and illustrated by Eric Carle
  • Bunny Cakes written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells
  • The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule written and illustrated Mike Berenstain, created by Stan & Jan Berenstain
  • The Hat written and illustrated by Jan Brett
  • The Art Lesson written and illustrated by Tommy dePaola
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear written and illustrated by Bill Martin, Jr
  • The Cat and the Hat written and illustrated by Seuss
  • Where the Wild Things Are written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak

It is my hope that Florida students, parents and educators will set aside time to check out these fantastic creations with their students! As a parent of two little ones myself, I know that time is a precious commodity. However, reading with your students is a gift that keeps growing with every word and every page.

About the author: Christie Bassett is an art teacher from Polk County, Florida. She is spending the 2014-2015 school year traveling the state of Florida speaking to educators, future teachers, district personnel and business leaders about the continued success of Florida’s public education. You can contact Christie at 2015FlaTeacheroftheYear@gmail.com and read her biography at http://www.fldoe.org/teaching/recognition-recruitment/fl-teacher-of-the-year-program/past-winners-finalists/2015.stml.

A Surprise Announcement for an Incredible Educator

Honoring outstanding educators and students is by far my favorite activity as Florida’s Commissioner of Education. The only thing that makes the recognition even better is when it is a total surprise.

Last week, I visited Frances K. Sweet Elementary School to recognize fourth grade educator and Florida’s 2015 Milken Educator Award winner Nardi Routten. Only, Nardi had no idea she was receiving an award.

What a joy to see her reaction to winning this prestigious award and how fervently her students cheered during the announcement. It was evident in that moment how much she has contributed to her students, colleagues and the school as a whole.

Nardi was recognized for her strong track record of raising student achievement. In fact, her students regularly score higher on both district and state assessments, which is a direct reflection of the extra time she spends with individual students.

She is known for meeting with students before and after school, and on weekends. Parents often request her for their children because of her willingness and ability to meet her students’ specific needs. As St. Lucie Public Schools Superintendent Genelle Yost put it, Nardi is a “phenomenal teacher leader.”

Because of the great work of Nardi and others like her, Florida will continue to be a national leader in education.

To learn more about Nardi’s accomplishments, visit the Florida Department of Education’s newsroom.

About the author: Commissioner Pam Stewart leads the Florida Department of Education, which supports Florida’s Pre-K-12 education system, serving more than 2.7 million students and 192,000 educators. She is a former teacher, principal and deputy superintendent.

Black History Month Essay Contest Shines Light on Outstanding Students

Each February, our staff reads more than 1,200 student essays submitted to Florida’s Black History Month essay contest. It’s a challenge that our entire office looks forward to, in large part, because of the passion, insight and creativity weaved through every submission.

Last year’s best essays shared numerous true stories of incredible heroism and sincere hopes for the future. Our 2014 high school essay winner, Javan Latson, shared the powerful story of his grandfather Leonard, a law enforcement officer, who challenged a policy barring black officers from driving police cruisers.

In Brooklyn Sheppard’s winning essay, she wrote about a world where she is judged solely on her “talents, kindness and compassion.” The fourth grader ended her essay with a call to “give a hug, and lend a hand.”

You can see why I am so eager to dive into the essays we will begin receiving during the next few weeks. I hope you will share this important contest with the students in your life and encourage them to participate.

More about the Contest:                                      

Excellence in Education Award:

Students, parents, teachers and principals are invited to nominate full-time, African-American educators in elementary, middle and high schools for the Black History Month Excellence in Education Award. All entry forms and guidelines for the contests can be found at www.FloridaBlackHistory.com.

Student Art and Essay Contests:

Art and essay contests are open to students in Kindergarten to 12th grade. The theme for this year’s essay and art contests is “A Celebration of African-American Innovation and Innovators.” Students are asked to share how African-American innovators have shaped Florida.

The art contest is open to all Florida students in grades K-3, and two winners will be selected.

The essay contest is open to all Florida students in grades 4 through 12. Three winners will be selected: one elementary student (grades 4-5), one middle-school student (grades 6-8) and one high school student (grades 9-12). Winners will receive a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

Information about the contests and Florida’s Black History Month is available on Florida’s Black History Month website at www.FloridaBlackHistory.com.

About the author: Commissioner Pam Stewart leads the Florida Department of Education, which supports Florida’s Pre-K-12 education system, serving more than 2.7 million students and 192,000 educators. She is a former teacher, principal and deputy superintendent.