Saturday, April 11, 2015

The man behind the curtain.

I hated the Wizard of Oz from the age of 6 until well into my forties.  Yes, I know it is a beloved tale of the importance of family and home, but when you're sent to bed by a rule-following babysitter in the middle of the flying monkeys scene, well, you're scared witless.  (Or something that rhymes with that.)  

Every year, during the annual showing on network television, my sister and I would be offered special dispensation to stay up past the usually appointed bedtime to watch the movie.

And I would flatly decline.  

All these years later, I remember curling up on the hardwood floor in the doorway to my room, sobbing in protest of the "stay up and watch the movie, or go to bed" option, flatly refusing the comforts provided by my parents -- apparently only identified as my bed and the area rug underneath it -- choosing the hardwood floor and a quilt made by my grandmother.  (NOT MY PARENTS!)

Suffice it to say, I was not in a Growth Mindset.

 Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

 While we're on the topic of classic childhood movies, sing along for a minute with this classic from Mary Poppins:

"If you want this choice position.... 
Have a cheery disposition..."
 
Jane and Michael Banks new what they wanted in a nanny.  Disposition is number one, in their book.  To be honest, it's number one in all of our books -- why would you want to interact with anyone with a less than positive disposition, after all?  

Yet it's the number one struggle of teachers, fighting desperately for the academic (and personal) success of their students.  

Certainly Carol Dweck's mindset research is valuable -- if the kids in the class are willing to face the flying monkeys that are keeping them from embracing the concept.  Katrina Schwartz, at Mind/Shift, offers some alternatives to fostering the embracing of growth mindset in her article, What’s Your Learning Disposition? How to Foster Students’ Mindsets.

Take a read, and see how a simple shift in the way teachers approach student learning, including a raw and honest transparency of their own failures and how they rose to overcome them, is critical.

Especially in this week when we've deemed our elementary students "Ready for the Test," as they face the almighty PSSAs.  (Certainly my co-workers are willing to show no shame in their video encouragement!)

We need to find a way to bridge the gaps between outside of school where kids feel successful about something, and in the academic world.  Partnering with our students to understand a bit about the obstacles in their lives, no matter how silly they seem to us, may offer a key to unlocking that growth mindset that they've had all along, but never looked for.

So what finally happened to allay my fears of the folks in Oz?  Our faculty and staff performed Wizard of Oz as a fundraiser for the scholarship fund.  I was one of the talking trees who tossed apples at the scarecrow, wearing a brown velour tree costume that still causes new nightmares, when I think about the fact that I was on stage in something that unflattering.  Oh, and my fear of flying primates?

My daughter, along with a dozen or so of my colleagues' kids, became flying monkeys. 

It's difficult to hold a grudge against your own eight year old daughter on rollerblades, sporting a tail.