The Learning Mindset

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I have a few “never miss” blog posts. You know, the ones that we subscribe to and look forward to Considering carefully and deeply. One such blog is Blue Cereal Education, written by Dallas Koehn, a colleague that I met via the #OklaEd Twitter chat (Sunday evenings at 9:00 Eastern Time). One of his posts  recently encountered was about Pre-AP classes and their importance. What follows in this blog post are comments that I uploaded to his post. I recommend that particular post and his blog in general to your Consideration. My thoughts / comments:

Once again, you’ve “hit the nail on the head” as the saying goes. I had never encountered ‘Pre-AP’ until this post. Unlike you, I’m not a fan of the College Board, its programs and materials. In fact, I’m most bothered by the scripted approach to the AP classes. I’m bothered that any people would believe they ‘know’ what students should truly understand and be able to use. I’m bothered that they seem to think lesson plan delivery is the way to get there. I’m bothered that they believe a multiple-guess exam is the way to assess the level of learning. BUT I do like the “Blue Cereal Education” thinking on their Pre-AP program –> another opportunity for teachers to hopefully facilitate Effective Learning and Joy of Learning habit development for young students (as I interpret your points at least).

I love most of this post and your knack for expressing your thoughts so well. But this paragraph in particular grabbed me: “I certainly understand how difficult it is to lead a class through an advanced curriculum and facilitate higher level thinking skills when some members of that class lack the knowledge, know-how, or mindset to follow along. Since time immemorial, teachers have been fighting the sand trap of ‘teaching to the middle’ – losing the low, boring the high, dragging half the middle bravely towards adequacy.” For me, the most critical and difficult issue is the students’ mindsets.

I struggle as I expect you and many educators do with the issue of a student’s Effective Learning / Joy of Learning (how to learn, wanting to learn) mindset. Those that have it are the ideal students we like to work with – regardless of lack of knowledge or know-how, issues teachers are expected to facilitate. Those that don’t have it somehow need help to get it… But there is no “Mindset Online Store” we can direct them to in order for them to get it! Sadly, they don’t have it, most likely, because their family / neighborhood culture doesn’t promote it.

So the best ‘answer’ is to somehow to facilitate culture change, sadly something that cannot happen quickly. One thought I’ve expressed often is to promote local dialogue led by LOCAL PEOPLE possessing the mindset – believing that they have the best potential to influence those who don’t possess the mindset. It’s what I refer to as the Spider Plant model. Local believers (spider plants) reach out (send out runners) and change non-believers to believers (starting new spider plants) – and the cycle continues. But, again, this takes time… I don’t know any alternative.

Critical, however, is that teachers from pre-school on MUST also build upon even the smallest glimmer of motivation. The Spider Plant model can and will work within the classroom regardless of level as well.

I’m often asked about the LOCAL PEOPLE I mention. They do exist. It might be the parent, grandparent, or uncle of the child; it might be a member of the clergy, a local business person, a community center staff member, a ‘non-affiliated’ local citizen, an older mindset-bearing student, …. But we read / hear about them frequently. I’ve got to believe they are in ALL local neighborhoods.

Great Blue Cereal blog post and my thoughts on an incredibly difficult but oh so important issue. I and, I expect, Dallas would welcome your thoughts and feedback! Thanks as always for reading our posts.