Sunday, June 19, 2011

Going Deeper: rereading more than one at a time

Last week I wrote making plans to include professional reading as part of my summer reading frenzy. Though I do plan to read new things--a new professional book or two (or three) and backlogged journal articles--I also reread a lot over the summer.

I like to think about how what I learn from one source links to other sources and then how it all plays out in the classroom or when working with adults. It's important to be able to see how things fit together or what we do ends up feeling like a disjointed, chaotic mess.

Sometimes I like to take a new resource and read it along with a familiar one--sort of like wearing a new pair of shoes with an outfit you know works. This does a couple of things for me. It helps me hook the new learning to something I already know and also forces me to consider that stuff I already knew in different ways. Other times I take two or more familiar resources and read them together to help me deepen my thinking about something in particular.

Right now, I'm rereading Mindset by Carol Dweck and Teacher leadership that strengthens professional practice by Charlotte Danielson because I wanted to think about how mindset impacts what I do as I work with teachers. The big thing that jumped out at me the other day was on reflection. Here are short excerpts that got me thinking:
Teacher leaders...recognize that nothing is ever finished; everything is subject to revision and improvement...Teacher leaders engage in critical reflection on the consequences of actions, on the impact of an approach on student learning. The power of reflection on the practice of teaching has been well documented (Kolb, 1984), and teacher leaders engage in critical reflection on their own teaching. They extend this habit of mind to other projects with which they are involved...
When interpreting others' actions or statements, they tend to ascribe positive motives. 
Furthermore, as more teachers are engaged in the pursuit of improved practice, the school itself becomes increasingly defined as an organization that learns. 
Danielson, C. (2006). Teacher leadership that strengthens professional practice. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD. 
 ...aren't they [people with the growth mindset] more likely to have inflated views of their abilities and try for things they are not capable of? In fact, studies show that people are terrible at estimating their abilities....but it was those with the fixed mindset who accounted for almost all the inaccuracy. 
If, like those with the growth mindset, you believe you can develop yourself, then you're open to accurate information about your current abilities...if you're oriented toward learning, as they are, you need accurate information...with fixed-mindset people...some outcomes are magnified, others are explained away, and before you know it you don't know yourself at all. 
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York, New York: Ballentine Books.
I started thinking about what this might mean when working with other teachers and alongside other teacher leaders--those who may have fixed mindsets or growth mindsets. When I think about teachers who are highly reflective in terms of their mindset, I realize that they are not afraid to talk about when things do not go well in the classroom and view these experiences as chances to learn and to enhance their classroom practices. They are not afraid to share their experiences with colleagues so that everyone can learn.

One the other hand, those with a fixed mindset may feel very threatened when engaged in reflective thinking. For them, realizing or admitting that something didn't go well leads to the self-perception that they have failed. This situation is tough for teacher leaders to approach, in part because the relationship with the teacher must be strong enough to balance the insecurity. Teacher leaders are also often in the position to help others become aware of and shift their mindsets. Hard work, to say the least.

But the most challenging thing may be our own mindsets in terms of how we think of others. We have to be careful--we must remember not to have fixed perceptions of those with whom we work. We have to be open to possibilities, to see strengths in spite of limitations and not become stuck with one view of a colleague. Even when working with fixed-mindet colleagues, we must believe that their mindsets can be changed, that they can engage in accurate reflection than enables them to continually refine their practice. We have to be willing to let go of past perceptions and keep an open mind as we work more closely with colleagues, being wary of allowing fixed perceptions to color our interactions.

Last week, a couple of you commented that you'd like to know what titles I plan to read--an ever-changing list! If you leave contact information in the comments, I'll be happy to respond. 


  1. I love this idea of reading/rereading two professional books at the same time to see how they play against each other. I sometimes do that, too, only not in a planned way.

  2. Thanks for the reminder about fixed mindset. I appreciate the idea that not only do I have to watch myself for a fixed mindset on me, but also on others. That also applies to our knowledge from Tap training. As teacher leaders, our colleagues need to know that we believe in them, and are here to support them and help them grow.

  3. Great analogy about your reading life -- pairing a reread with a new text like new shoes with an outfit you know works.

    Thanks for sharing the snippets with us.


  4. I just had an ah ha moment! Two years ago I read the CAFE book by the 2 sisters. In the last week, I've joined Twitter. (Talk about knowledge overload!!!) But here's the connection I made with your post: I reading tweets from teachers at the Daily 5/CAFE workshops and I'm also reading Conferring by Patrick Allen. Everything is beginning to become much clearer! What a perfect pair!