This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By Heidi Hohman
Occasionally I will have a word or an idea pop up three or four times in a cluster in a short span of time. Whenever that happens, I feel a need to explore the idea or concept a bit more. This has happened over the last few weeks with YET. I had a parent volunteer mention it, it came up in another conversation with a colleague, it was in a video I had the chance to watch unexpectedly, and I saw it on a coffee mug. Were all of these a sign? I feel certain that they were.
This summer I began planning the school year as I have done every year for more years than I would like to admit. At the beginning of October, I pulled out the calendar I had made while looking for something else. At first, I felt a sense of dread when I realized I had not accomplished much of what I had listed. Then I realized how ambitious and foolish I had been. I had the best of intentions, but I made those plans before I knew my students. The timelines are all bungled, and the projects I thought we would be doing by now have not happened YET. By remembering this powerful little word, I calmed my fears and reminded myself what I know to be true. Good teachers know that students’ needs dictate what should be taught. This group of students needed (still needs) something more from me than what I had planned.
The Growth Mindset Coach and The Growth Mindset Playbook, by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley, have provided me with several lessons to try to meet my students’ needs. Last week, we did the brain plasticity lesson that I shared with some of you last summer. Students were asked to use their non-dominant hand to replicate the feelings of frustration that can come with learning something new. When I asked if they had ever felt like this in school, one boy dropped to his knees dramatically and exclaimed, “Every day of my life!”
Later, this same student asked if I had designed that lesson just for him. I explained that the lesson was for anyone who could identify with those feelings, and as I gave him a quick hug, I smiled and said, “This one speaks to me more than you know.”
Perhaps we are not as far along as I thought we would be by the first week of November, but the journey we have begun together is a worthy one. What have we been doing? We have been exploring who we are as learners. We have been building our class community, and we have been learning what it means to take academic risks. We have been learning about our brains, and trying to cultivate a growth mindset. We have been learning how to trust ourselves and each other. All of this is hard, hard work, but incredibly valuable.
Failures are not always embraced as part of the learning process…YET. We have not reached our full potential…YET. We don’t always feel brave when we face a new challenge…YET. It takes so much time, repetition, and encouragement. We will get there. We just are not quite there…YET.
Heidi Hohman graduated from West Liberty with a major in elementary education and a minor in general science. She earned a Masters in reading from WVU. She began a career as a fourth grade teacher at St. Mary Central in Martins Ferry, spent 14 years teaching science at Triadelphia Middle School, and has seen her career come full circle as she returned to teaching fourth grade at Steenrod Elementary. Heidi recently renewed her National Board certification in 2018. She is currently a member of Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab. Heidi is a lifelong learner always in search of new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning.