Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Life of Emotional Treading

swimming alone,
head above the surface, carefree with just an occasional wake of a wave.   

swimming in tandem with My Love,
head in, but now - scanning, looking around for the next troubled wave.

swimming too deep,
almost lost - but somehow I’m keeping afloat.
I’m alive (or am I?) only because My Love is holding me. 
I am supported.

falling, falling, deep, deep
beyond all places one should go, the place your mother didn’t even warn you about.  
I have no choice. I was not given one. I am lost.
Even with My Love holding me, supporting me.  

We are both lost in the exact same, completely different place.

T i m e.

T i m e.

T i m e.

and so on…

swimming with my head submerged -
knowing other proverbial shoes will most certainly drop,
Trying to savor on eggshells, when I remember well.

once in awhile, diving deep - There, again,
spotting others lost, drowning in the deep darkness
and I’m grasping at them by their fingertips.
bringing them up to as far as they are willing and capable.

but - now I’ve been There, again,
semi-drowning with that overfamiliar anvil on my chest.
It’s that lost, deep darkness.
And now, again, fresh - raw - vulnerable.  

I cannot stay away. I want to disappear. Really I do - sometimes forever.
Yet, somehow I must choose this, as an unwilling participant -  
Or is it a willing one?

T i m e.

T i m e.

look! I see another lost one below. 
I feel my fiery anger swell at their proverbial shoe.
It’s not even mine - yet.
“I’ve already done this for us all!” I’m shrieking -  at noone - again.

reaching out,
I must.
I’m compelled unwillingly?
I’m in It, again - with them, raw, again.
but still I’m There - in my own lost, deep darkness.        

My life of emotional treading.


In loving memory on what would be your 15th birthday,
Madison Joan Friel
August 10, 2002 ~ August 26, 2002
Forever my daughter

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Legacy, by sleight of hand.

You’re not here, mom.
Yet He is You.

In so many moments
They wouldn't know to have missed,
when He yells, "I sneezed!"
if no one says, "bless You."

His magnetic character
has already earned Him
more supermarket friends than You.
I hate to tell You,
but He is more diplomatic thus far.
They call Him, "The Mayor."
You wouldn't be jealous,
just proud.

You'd endlessly run the back of Your
Shalimar-scented hand
back and forth
across His peach-rose, dimpled cheeks
as soft as
“Snoft”, you would whisper.

His desires... Yours alive again;
To be loved and adored
while All are happy around Him.
Sounds so simple, irony.
So sad
for You not to be a force
together against the world.

At least He's here.  
He is You.  
So, You are still here. 

Legacy, by sleight of hand.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Is Growth Mindset becoming just another new buzzword?



Here is my Positive Realist view of the explosion of abuse of the term "growth mindset":

Your school bought a book about mindset and had a "volunteer" book club about it.  They ordered one "Mindset Kit" per grade level.  And they told you they want to see you using mindset when you plan every lesson.  After all, they paid a lot of money for those kits and that in-house professional development. It will be a check-off on your observation review as well.

Sound familiar? I bet you can think of at least a minimum of  five other mandates you have had to “show” or “document” in your plans that were not really a “thing”. 
That’s right.  Mindset is not a thing.  It cannot be documented or data based or integrated into the regular schedule.  It isn’t just for the kids or a subject.
So what is it? I continue to assert, as do the experts, that mindset is a way of thinking.  It begins with Me and You.  And then we need to spread it to Them.  Mindset is a switch from why don’t they get it to what else can I do to help them understand.  This may sound like I’m talking about a student.  But I’m talking about life.  

This isn’t some willy-nilly-positive-put-it-out-there thinking.  It’s science.  It’s neuroplasticity.  It’s knowing that the ride is more important than the destination 99% of the time.

We aren’t always going to use a growth mindset.  I certainly am still quite fixed in many an area.  However, it is proven, that just thinking about the mindsets changes your way of thinking.

Often, I will think my usual thought (during a fixed-mindset moment) and I then counter it with the thought using a more growth minded view. It can be enlightening.  But, in that moment, it often is not enlightening in any way!  However, I have found more than once, even at a later time, that other thought may linger and grow.

Here is a real life example.  It does not have to be a big idea! It is a simple thought we have throughout the day, everyday.

I can’t wait to retire and have my own time to do what I want… But I’m so glad to have a job I can count on that I love deep down beyond all the minutia.  I also am thankful I can go to work unlike my friend who is too ill at the moment.

Don’t order the workbook, kit, poster (okay - a few cute posters are out there).  Copy some great worksheets to operationalize the definitions. If you want to, order the Mindset audiobook or - shhh - the actual paper bound Mindset book!
If you even just thought about it just now, your mindset has grown!  


Friday, August 26, 2016

1,2,3... and begin again...

somewhere there was this tune
"...1,2,3... and begin again..."
it repeated in a lovely, clear female voice

they were dance directions
sounding like an old time, crackling recording
i can hear it in my head like a beautiful echo
at first, it is a feeling of a new start
almost like a fresh awakening, "...begin again..."

and then
the pit
the lump
The Dread.

it is the new start 
of the next year of missing you
and filling my empty albatross of a box with another infinite number of 
events, memories, visions, worries, joys, celebrations, disappointments, life lessons - for us both, 
and growth, most of all, growth.

so farewell again, it sounds so redundant, because it is.

Madison Joan Friel
august 10, 2002 ~ august 26, 2002

i will share you again on your birthday next year 
with whoever will hear

all my love,
mommy

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

my albatross of Nothing, in memory



this empty box is too heavy to carry everywhere   
yet I choose to - every second, every minute of every day, all day
it’s my only way to keep Her name going on
for me,
for you
for you - for me

it contains
Nothing
14 years of the most burdensome of Nothing

some of the albatross of this Nothing
that I lug around perpetually:

your first snow
your first cold
your first smile
your first laugh
your first word
your first tooth
your first lost tooth
your first haircut
your first birthday
your first day of school
your first teacher
your first friend

14 birthdays
14 birthday cakes - at least
14 birthday outfits and shopping for them
14 years measuring your growth on the door frame
14 years celebrating that growth at your annual physical

14 years of good morning hugs
14 years of good night kisses
14 years of boo boo kisses

14 summers
14 autumns
14 winters
14 springs
14 years of family vacations

14 first days of school
14 years of school performances
14 trophies, at least
14 years of promotion to the next grade
14 years of class trips, dances, and proms
14 last days of school

14 years of doing your hair - whether you liked it or not
14 years of polishing your nails
14 years of shopping with you

11 years of telling you to be nice to your brother
14 years of telling you not to be as stubborn as your mommy
14 years of staring at your dimples just like your daddy’s

14 new year celebrations
14 christmases
14 hanukkahs
14 valentine days
14 mommy birthdays
14 daddy birthdays
11 mason birthdays
14 mother’s days
14 father’s days

14 years of etceteras.

every day is another day of missed seconds ticking by that go in my empty box
a lot of Nothing just keeps going in
it grows heavier each day, each month, each year, going on to each decade…
it’s my albatross

I choose to continue to lug with me everywhere
I share it with you twice a year
for me
for you
for you - for me

happy 14th birthday, in memory,

Madison Joan Friel   
august 10, 2002 - august 26, 2002 

I love you forever,
mommy

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Flow for All! Create Flow to Stretch Student Learning

LINK to Dr. Gravity Goldberg's blog where this is published as well

FLOW FOR ALL! CREATE FLOW TO STRETCH STUDENT LEARNING

October 3, 2016
Audrey Friel
This post is written by teacher and presenter Audrey Friel.

~Did you ever watch an eleven year old boy put together a Lego® set?

~Did you ever try to get your preteen daughter off that fashion app she’s always blogging on to come to the dinner table?

~Have you noticed the eyes of a child in the midst of pretend play outside?

~What about your seven year old making a homemade slingshot out of sticks and leaves to haul a dead fly to the frog in the pond?

What are some observable commonalities:  glazed eyes, furrowed brows, slight grins, occasional grunts, frustrated motions, long periods of time at the task, trial and error again and again, a squeal or two of delight, maybe even a quick temper outburst or two.

The examples are endless!  These are all examples of children in the state of “flow”.  The most common and lauded name associated with the creation of the idea of flow is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He was studying and writing about play and creativity, in all people of all ages. He found the intended goal self-fulfilling and the activity toward the goal became its own reward.  And flow, as he describes it, began.  Actual flow never quite reaches the end but gets ever so close.

The greatest moments, the highest, most satisfying experiences in people’s lives come when in flow. Three parts, autonomy, clear goals, and immediate feedback are imperative. The challenge/goal stretches the whole self in a way that makes the effort itself the reward. It’s that delicate balance producing a degree of focus and yet satisfaction at the same time.

Csikszentmihalyi defined flow as “being so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The ego falls away. Time Flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost…”

As Dan Pink references, flow is the time that passes in a flash when it has gotten dark and you realize you forgot to get dressed, eat, and feed the dog!

That feeling of flow is something we can offer our students. I also assert, we must experience flow ourselves, so that we can facilitate this for our charges. Self-participation is the only way students buy in.  And, really, isn’t it all about the buy in?

“You teach elementary students,” I hear you saying, “How much flow can they really get?”

Well, it varies not only in amount, but in degree as well.  Passionate about soccer, painting, singing, violin, writing, tinkering? All of these (and endless other examples) exhibit qualities that use great tools for learning, flow, and for using/noticing metacognition.  How about those Legos®, or jigsaw puzzles, Minecraft®, or Origami? We need to unlock these qualities. We need to point them out and the skills they use for them that they can use toward new learning. Using the learning from past experiences toward a new experience is the road to flow, no matter what your age or what you desire to explore. This is real “rigor”.


As an educator, I think that autonomy and immediate feedback can be the hardest parts of this puzzle to let go of and give to our students. Quite honestly, it’s most often a challenge for us to figure out.

Flow experiences imply growth. To maintain that flow state, one must seek increasingly greater challenges. Attempting these new, difficult challenges stretches skills. One emerges, like a new butterfly, from such a flow experience with a bit of personal growth and great feelings of importance.

A great “unintended consequence” by increasing time spent in flow is it’s rise of intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning.  This is my own personal endeavor each new school year with each new group of students.

Here is the question I have gotten from parents for decades as well, “How do I help my child to be more motivated?”.  Or the ever so popular, “ My child is bored in class.” So this information can assist to better inform parents as to how to help their children. It can give clear examples and can be flushed out as a plan with the teacher, parent, and student all involved. It becomes a living and changing document.


Our most important job is to find students’ passions, apply metacognition strategically, guide and facilitate paths, and learn along with them with the sheer excitement and frustration of their flow. We need to improve our own flow purposefully and reveal our experiences, both positive and negative, to our students as well.

Beware, as this is the purest view of flow.  In a classroom situation, we must adjust.  Not only do we need to adjust for our students, but for ourselves, our administrators, the parents, and even our colleagues (and let us not forget constant new and forever changing mandates).  All of these variables “count”.

Concurrently, every group of students has a new makeup; new class of peers, new personal situations, new developmental stages, and more. They, too, encounter constant changes that often interfere with their flow.

Don’t forget, you also face new challenges and experiences each year.  Give yourself the same break you would give your students. Then, take a deep breath, and…



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Growth Mindset; Perseverance and Process Praise with a Plan!


A growth mindset about a growth mindset! See my latest blog post as a guest blogger on Dr. Gravity Goldberg's blog:

Growth Mindset; Perseverance and Praise with a Plan!
...So how does a growth mindset, process praise fit in here?  We need to praise the process, effort, failure, retry, do-overs of the world.  However, don’t fall into that trap of empty praise... 
Thanks to Audrey for helping us find the words and actions that help students thrive. "...don't fall into that trap of empty praise. If there isn't a next step that feels like a chance for learning, it's just a wish," Dr. Gravity Goldberg.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Growth mindset, effort, perseverance, grit, vigor, rigor, wit, flow, daring, motivation, praise, metacognition… it goes on and on.  The current verbiage that can strangle a poor, novice, teacher interviewee - or a seasoned teacher like myself!  

What does this all mean?  How does it translate to the actual classroom?  More importantly to the actual student?

Third graders:
"I know if I see the 'Good Openings' chart and I read it at the same time, I'll remember it, Mrs. Friel.  So I am going to try it that way this time. Maybe I’ll try dialogue this time.  Let’s see how it sounds."

"I know I have to write the math sentence, say it out loud, and do that ten times in a row.  That makes that pathway in my brain strong!"

"Sarah and I want to do our project together.  She's really good at writing the text and I'm really good at illustrating our points! We can teach each other while we learn!"

It is February, and I am glad the words are sinking in for my third graders.  I am always hoping they can walk the walk as well as they can now talk the talk.  It is a constant for me to reflect upon and improve teaching effort, perseverance, and metacognition for students in this age group.

Recently, I have heard parents and educators say, "What a great effort!" or, "You tried so hard!"  or, “As long as you tried your best!” But many times, that is not really the case.  Trying does not equal learning. Praising effort is, in fact, the way to go.  That is how you use the growth mindset to “grow your brain” as I refer to it to my students. However, beware of empty effort and praise!

...If we don’t work to shift our own mindset about ourselves and our students, then we won’t work to change many other important things in the system necessary to improve education. Furthermore, our efforts to foster growth mindsets in students are likely to fail because we will say and do things that reflect our fixed mindset beliefs, which students will notice…

This means authentically working to become better at what we do throughout our lives, including how we teach and how we create contexts that help students thrive, and making our learning process visible to one another and to students." Growth Mindset: Clearing Up Some Common Confusions

Not only do they (we!) have to use a growth mindset and have to fail in order to learn, but it is just the beginning.  There needs to be a plan to change or improve efforts to make progress from those mistakes.  In fact, most times, students have to fail, learn from why it failed, and realign to progress. We, too, do the same. This is really my goal.  How can I facilitate the student’s prior error to guide them to try something different toward the possibility of new learning? 

Types of mistakes x y chart 4.16.jpg

I use the example of their favorite video game or app.  When you make a mistake, you retry using a new strategy avoiding the same mistake you made before.  So then, I use my personal example of a popular game app that uses letters to make words. I’m as obsessed with it as a teenager with their cell phone. I show my students that in order to go to the next level, I have to retry in different ways using prior knowledge to advance. I get frustrated and make varied attempts to move on to the next level, only to start all over again and meet the next level head on with anticipation and vigor!

So how does this growth mindset, process praise fit in here?  We need to praise the process, effort, failure, retry, do-overs of the world.  However, don't fall into that trap of empty praise.  If there isn't a next step that feels like a chance for learning, it's just a wish.  It should feel excitingly frustrating! This is known as flow.

“It’s not just about effort. You also need to learn skills that let you use your brain in a smarter way. . .   to get better at something (Yeager & Dweck, 2012.)...”  

So how can we change our words and our effort praise to help students grow their mindsets and create conditions for ultimate flow/process/growth? Here's a great chart with some applications to try by Carol Dweck, the guru of the growth mindset:

How to encourage students mindset chart.jpg


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vigor Over Rigor, Wit Over Grit?




A hot term right now in education is rigor.  Here's another one, grit.  Every current researcher, social scientist, data miner, etc. is in on the rigor/grit game.  I buy it.  It makes a lot of sense, especially in the mindset arena. To me, rigor is the effort needed to persevere to pursue a goal even when faced with adversity.  We were cheerleading all over the place, "Rah, rah, rigor, grit, hooray!" Then, I read an article perusing the fact that maybe socioeconomic status is a huge factor in determining the amount of rigor/grit needed and the ability to overcome some extreme circumstances.  That makes rigor unbalanced and difficult to both define and emulate.

A new thought occurred to me.  Really, students need vigor, not rigor and ready for this... wit, not only grit.  To vigorously pursue a goal is both definable and reproducible.  That is what we need for all students regardless of socioeconomic status, ability level, resources, etc.

To pursue a goal with 'vigor' creates the ultimate conditions for success.  Look at the definitions below (from dictionary.com).  What do you notice?
rigor
[rig-er]
noun

1. strictness, severity, or harshness, as in dealing with people.
2. the full or extreme severity of laws, rules, etc.
3. severity of living conditions; hardship; austerity:
the rigor of wartime existence.
4. a severe or harsh act, circumstance, etc.
5. scrupulous or inflexible accuracy or adherence:
the logical rigor of mathematics.
6. severity of weather or climate or an instance of this:
the rigors of winter.
7. Pathology. a sudden coldness, as that preceding certain fevers; chill.
8. Physiology. a state of rigidity in muscle tissues during which they are unable to respond to stimuli due to the coagulation of muscle protein.
9. Obsolete. stiffness or rigidity.
vigor
[vig-er]
noun
1. active strength or force.
2. healthy physical or mental energy or power; vitality.
3. energetic activity; energy; intensity:
The economic recovery has given the country a new vigor.
4. force of healthy growth in any living matter or organism, as a plant.
5. active or effective force, especially legal validity.
Rigor seems quite negative, painful, and unrewarding.  Vigor seems active, positive, and energetic.   Using one's wits is the street smarts part of learning and growing.

Here is a similar comparison of grit and wit:

grit
[grit] 
noun 
2.firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck:

wit
[wit]
noun

1.the keen perception and cleverly apt expression of those connections between ideas that awaken amusement and pleasure.
2.speech or writing showing such perception and expression.
3.a person having or noted for such perception and expression.
4.understanding, intelligence, or sagacity; astuteness.
5.Usually, wits.
-powers of intelligent observation, keen perception, ingenious contrivance, or the like; mental acuity, composure, and resourcefulness:
-using one's wits to get ahead.
-mental faculties; senses.




Grit and wit show the same difference in viewpoint yet moving toward a more growth lens - albeit less dramatic than rigor and vigor. 

This is what we need to instill in our future students.  It's not college and career readiness.  It's LIFE readiness.  These qualities in current and future students will change the systems we now see at "the way things are".  

Maybe it is not impossible to imagine some of these future "problem-finders" (Pink, 2012) to initiate and grow change.  Will it be slow?  Maybe.  But it may happen at rocket speed.  We cannot know until we let go of the antiquated teach a program geared to a test, prep toward the test, test.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  This is not real data.  It is useless data.  

Our movement needs to go to more individualization, a prescription for each child molded through professionals who know child growth and development best. That prescription should be constantly changing as the student changes. Many professionals should be collaborating on each student's needs.  We should be sharing best practices and constantly revisiting our comfort zones. 

It sounds very complicated and more easily said than done.  We have to start somewhere.  And at the moment, we are going in the completely wrong direction, opposite actually. I do also believe that this will require all terms - rigor, vigor, grit, and wit! Undoing this damage will take time. But it should not take the place of moving forward simultaneously. 

Politics needs to give education back to the experts.  After all, no one gets into teaching for the money or the fame!