My Strongest Start Yet: Teaching Growth Mindset


A cartoon by one of my sophomore boys.

This year is my seventh as a teacher. I’m at the same high school, and while many things about my teaching and my teaching context have changed over those seven years, one thing has remained the same: no matter what other classes I’ve been assigned to teach, I have taught sophomore English every year.

Each year, I’ve made changes to my English 2 class. Early on, I re-arranged the curriculum to organize the year by a progression of writing genres, each paired with corresponding mentor texts. Later, I worked to add more performance tasks and authentic writing. Each year, I’ve swapped out at least one traditional text by a dead white man for one by someone of color, someone female, someone queer, and/or someone¬†still living. My curriculum has come to better represent the United States, and my Southern California students.

I’ve learned to make better, more personal connections with my students by assigning personal writing assignments in the first days of school, sharing more about myself and teaching authentically, having more personal conversations with students on a daily basis, and greeting my kids at the door as their song requests play on the classroom overhead speakers. This year, I feel that the first month of school has been my most successful yet, and one component that has contributed to that success, I believe, has been a short, three-day mini-unit in the first week of school. The topic: growth mindset. Continue reading

A First-Day-of-School Priority

school-1575835_960_720Summer is winding down (or is already over for many of us), and, since your time is limited, I will be brief.

I want to talk to you today about the first day of school. More specifically, what you have planned for your students’ first day this year.

Teachers have a variety of go-to activities and routines on the first day of school. Some play name games or ice breakers with their students. Some stick to a traditional route and go over the syllabus, while others dive right into a content-rich lesson. Still others begin with an exam, particularly if they assigned summer homework for their incoming class.

I’m entering my sixth year of teaching this year, and I’ve done most of the above. Through trial and error, I’ve realized that many first-day approaches can work. Regardless of what your first day plans entail, though, I want to suggest to you that no first-day-of-school plan is complete without one essential ingredient. Continue reading