Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Monday- What Are You Reading?

Over the last week I have read and re-read Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. I have read a few books that have dramatically changed the way that I interact with children and think about education. Mindset by Carol Dweck is one of them. The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner is another. I could list some others but Opening Minds is right up there.

Johnston talks about fixed and dynamic-learning frames, emphasizing that the latter leads to children believing that they can learn and that they are not limited by their own pre-determined intelligence. In his earlier book, Choice Words, Johnston emphasized the importance of supporting students for process and for praising specific behaviors, eliminating the more generic "good job" phrase from classrooms. This book is full of quotes and anecdotes; one of my favorite pages of Opening Minds is a comic of a dog lamenting that he is always a good dog and never a great one. When we say good job to one student and then excellent job to another (I admit it--I'm sure that I have done this in my quest for positive reinforcement) then we indirectly say to the first student that their job was only good and not excellent.

Teaching students to engage in dialogue and disagreements, conversations and collaborative inquiry, and debates about moral dilemmas are critical imperatives for classrooms. I loved Johnston's assertion that differences (in moral commitments) should be negotiated equitably. These are threads that we are morally bound to weave into classroom life. They are a foundation for democratic living."(p. 92)

We will be discussing this book as part of our professional development day on Friday and I am really looking forward to hearing what resonated with other readers. Johnston has amazing passages and insights about the importance of social imagination, empathy, classroom conversations, and self-reflection. Writing this post has inspired me to revisit some of my favorite passages and I have continued to reflect about this book and my own practices. I can't wait to hear how others internalized and are incorporating some of the ideas from Opening Minds into their classrooms and their lives.

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