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,

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
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,

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


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