The Stanford professor who pioneered praising kids for effort says we’ve totally missed the point – Quartz

I’m just about to read one of Carol Dweck’s books, and I’ll read it with this in mind.

Source: The Stanford professor who pioneered praising kids for effort says we’ve totally missed the point – Quartz

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Type ‘Amen’, hit ‘like’…a follow-up

I’m very pleased to report that Facebook have warned people about the type of posts I was commenting on (some would say ranting about!), back in November. Granted, they are not citing the same reasons, but rather are concerned about phishing and false site traffic numbers. I don’t mind why they are trying to reduce these posts, I’m just glad I’ll see fewer of them.




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What we are modelling when we hit ‘like’.

Increasingly, I am finding a particular kind of post clogging up my feed. It is the, ‘like’ if you think the person in the photo is cute, pretty, beautiful etc. The images may be children or teens with or without physical disability or disfigurement, and/or young people who are being bullied, think they’re ugly and so on.

Obviously, very young children are not posting these images themselves, but those who do are sending some counter-productive messages. Whilst the message seems to be one of empowerment, and I am convinced posters mean well, I have to ask whether we are just greasing the downward spiral of low self-esteem in young people. It is promoting the concept that unless you get hundreds of likes from friends and strangers, you are not worthy or valued. What is actually being demonstrated here is that what you look like is something that has to be approved of by as many people as possible.

By mindlessly hitting ‘like’ on a friend’s ‘share’, we are perpetuating this idea that we are only as valuable as the world says we are. We are also devaluing the importance of positive action and achievement as the route to high, or improved self esteem. I can’t think of a time when I’ve heard someone comment how proud they are of their children’s looks, yet time and again, I hear pride or admiration of a young person’s resilience, consideration, kindness, fundraising, academic or sporting achievement. In the ‘real world’, in classrooms and on social media, this is what we need to be modelling.

In middle school, we spend time talking about body image and how the media influences ideals of beauty and culture.  I use cognitive behavioural ideas to demonstrate common thinking errors, so students learn to question both judgments and opinions and what is behind these evaluations. This includes:

  • looking through alternative lenses and what influences these views;
  • being aware of our ‘filters’ – for example having very definite ideas on what constitutes how people should look and behave, whilst dismissing anything outside this as negatively different;
  • understanding how negative labelling of whole self and other people, rather than of actions or mistakes, can influence our mind-set;
  • being aware of acting on feelings as the truth – I am angry with that person so that person is bad; I feel ugly so I must be.

It is my intention that students build awareness of how easily we can be influenced by ourselves, others and the media.  I will definitely be asking students what they think of the culture of validation by social media and what the possible implications may be for individuals and society in general.


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Purpose, Reason and Meaning

What was I doing?

I’d got about a kilometre into my dog walk when I had a momentary panic; “did I put my Fitbit on?”. Scrabbling around in my cleavage (I know – not a good look, albeit an increasingly common sight!), there it was, as usual, attached to my bra. Phew, my walk was not in vain.

Hang on.

What was I thinking?

Was he mocking me for being so shallow?

Was he mocking me for being so shallow?

There I was in the Autumn sunshine, exercising my dogs and myself in this breathtaking location, literally ten steps away from a koala and my thoughts were that it was pointless because I’d forgotten my Fitbit.

I gave myself a mental slap for that one!

It did lead me to think about purpose and meaning and whether we are doing things for the best reasons.


  • The purpose of my walk is to exercise the dogs;
  • The reason is this commitment I’ve made to their well-being.

 And yet, in my head it looks more like this:

  • If I walk the dogs, that’s one less thing I need to feel guilty about not doing;
  • If I go for a long walk, every day, I won’t put on weight;
  • I’m in my 40s, it’s only a matter of time before things seize up, sag or drop off;
  • Let’s see how many steps I can do so I don’t have to dance around the lounge at 11pm to reach 10, 000;
  • What shall I eat when I get back?
Good job he hasn't got a Fitbit on his bra...

Good job he hasn’t got a Fitbit on his bra…

What does it all mean?

Clearly,  I’m in danger of losing the meaning; the added value which always accompanies this activity. Every walk I do, almost every day, never fails to deliver natural wonders – beautiful scenery, wildlife, a huge sky. At the street level, I see interesting architecture and sometimes bump into people I know (and strangers) and have a friendly chat. From a personal perspective, I discover a lifted mood, feelings of physical well-being and the achievement of a task, which could otherwise seem like a chore.

I never get tired of looking at pretty houses.

I never get tired of looking at pretty houses.

Fitbit: The Edge of Reason

The Fitbit is obviously an excellent motivator if you have a starter/finisher personality type, but I’ve let it take-over my mindfulness. I’ve always enjoyed my walks as a time to reflect, an attempt to clear my head entirely – if I concentrate on the action of walking, it is a little like meditating. It definitely restores some brain rhythm.

Today though, with thoughts going straight to, ‘my walk is a waste if it isn’t recorded’, I was a little ashamed. I know better than that. Luckily, I caught this errant thought as it emerged and, after acknowledging its existence, as all good counsellors should, I gave it a bloody sharp slap, and sent it on its way, resolving that something good should come out of it. Something like a reflective blog post. So here it is. Mission accomplished. I wonder if I’ll get to 10, 000 after netball, or if some dancing is required?

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Calm Down – We’re Not That Busy

My friend shared this on Facebook. I guessed what it was about within a minute, and then I got irritated. Why? Surely it’s just a sweet reminder of how hard our mothers work? On it’s own, perhaps, but to me it’s just the latest in what seems to be a social and media campaign to indoctrinate us that we are (and should be) SOOOOOOO busy. Half the ads I see on TV bombard us with phrases like, “today’s hectic lifestyles” and “busy mums”. There’s even a painkiller which purports to deal with “today’s strong pain”, because never in history has a headache been so bad as it is in 2015.

I’m getting a little bit tired of the notion that parenting and modern life is this mega thing;  as a society we are creating this vibe that we are run off our feet, constantly juggling everything and sacrificing ourselves for our children. It’s insulting to be honest. I would give my own life to preserve my children’s lives, but I wouldn’t work in a Siberian salt mine so they could get a new laptop.

If parenting is a 24 hour a day job, then, oops! I’ve failed. In our family, we eat, we keep a reasonably clean and tidy house, we wear clean clothes. It doesn’t take up my entire day to do these things –  my dogs get walked at least 3km every day. I get through two novels a week and play three games of netball. I’m so busy with playing games on-line, keeping up with the massive amount of information coming through my Twitter education network and spending time catching up with friends and family via Facebook, that sometimes it’s hours between cups of tea. However, all of that is what I do for me. It’s my leisure time, my interests. I wonder if as a society, we are confusing having plenty to do with being busy?

Our grandmothers had infinitely more practical things they had to do – cooking from scratch, scrubbing floors, hand-washing, mending, shopping in numerous different shops and usually walking everywhere. Children pretty much fended for themselves, hung out with older relatives or played outside. Mostly, they were loved, had scraped knees nursed, and had their reading listened to but they certainly didn’t have mothers at their beck and call, or fathers who helped around the house.

This is me glamorously going about cleaning after the daily air-raid.
 1940s dayAnd this is me glamorously going to a Boswell Project show. On a Sunday afternoon. After lunch with the girls. Before playing netball. I’m so busy. Who is looking after my family? Will they starve – oh! The helpless mites. I’m a bad, bad person.

At home, we all chip in, especially if I’m working. If I get a last-minute invitation to go for lunch with a friend, I don’t refuse because the washing needs to be hung out, or I haven’t ironed the school uniforms – stuff it, they can be wrinkly; it doesn’t make me an inadequate mother or a bad person. I mean, what’s going to happen if I don’t vacuum today? I didn’t change the sheets – will the headlines read, “Woman neglects laundry, nothing happened”, and, ” “I was just so busy!” she wailed.” Maybe your reality is more like this amusing parody, (although for some, despite its sit-com style, there’s still a serious note, intended or otherwise).

God, the grocery shopping takes up SOOOO much of the time I could be spending darning hubbie’s socks. 
a black and white photo of women and children queuing at a series of shopfronts
(Above) Women and children queue for fruit and vegetables from a London greengrocer, 1945. © Imperial War Museum

Some people have this air of ‘hassled’ about them, and at times they are pretty busy, driving kids around, working, whatever else they do, but no-one has no leisure time. No-one never watches TV or goes out for lunch or dinner. None of them do no sporting, special interest or ‘me-time’ thing. And that’s great, but not an accurate reflection of the portrayed zeitgeist. We all buy into it though, with our apologies for ‘spoiling’ ourselves,  justifying that we deserve it. We even take a humourous, rebellious stance of being unworthy because there MUST be something we’re neglecting in order to have time to ourselves. Don’t buy into the idea of our busy, busy lives, you’ll just end up buying all the products and services we don’t really need to assist us with our fabled busy-ness. Are we really just busy being busy, looking busy or justifying not being busy? So our grandmothers don’t mock us, just ask yourself, “Am I really that busy? Does that ad really reflect my everyday life?” If you’re honest, you may have had the odd day like that when your children were very young, but in reality, isn’t your life more full than it is hectic? And aren’t we lucky that it is?

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I wish someone had intervened… | Living Differently

I wish someone had intervened… | Living Differently.

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Teachers Without Work – A Self-help Guide

End of January, Australia.

Schools are returning for the new academic year; Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are a rash of ideas, advice seeking and photos of shiny, tidy classrooms. Supermarkets, shoe stores and stationers are in a Back to School frenzy and even your own in-box is telling you what will be happening in Week 0 and the first week back.

Great.    Fully expected.     Same old, same old.

The difference is that this year, you are without a position. Unemployed. And as for that in-box, you’re still on group mailing lists for schools where you’ve worked previously. Every one of these reminders is like a slap in the face, adding insult to injury, and to be honest, there’s only so much you can take because this isn’t the first time. You’ve spent years getting last minute contracts, taking sporadic relief teaching days, willingly putting in 15 hours per day, planning, marking, doing extra-curricular activities, feeling like you’re working much harder than others, just to get noticed, and you’re starting to wonder how you’ll ever get anything ongoing. You may even be looking at other career options.

Image by Max Talbot-Minkin

Image by Max Talbot-Minkin

I’m Feeling Miserable, Rejected, Angry and Undermined. 

You may be grieving. Grief takes all forms and it comes about as a result of a loss.  In this situation, you may have lost confidence, colleagues, certainty, direction and definitely a source of income. Any one of these losses disturbs your everyday well-being; being faced with a few or all of these things has the potential to trigger stress symptoms, depression and negative emotional affects. It turns life upside-down and demands some reassessment, especially if you have been teaching for years and feel like you’re no further towards job-security. To some, this may sound rather dramatic, but it’s important to acknowledge what’s happening to you.

Being a talented, qualified and enthusiastic teacher

with no job is an

emotional, professional and financial BIG DEAL.

Well-meaning friends and former colleagues are telling you it’s just the system, don’t take it personally, you’re a great teacher, something will come along. Others, the ‘fix it’ friends, are telling you what to do. Again, they mean well, but it undermines how bad you feel and most likely you’re already doing it:

  • E-mail drops to principals’ in-boxes;
  • Getting on Temporary Relief Teaching lists at schools;
  • Making sure your contacts know you’re available.
Image by Andrew Pescod

Image by Andrew Pescod


Stop beating yourself up with self-doubt. Here’s how to rationalise some of the unhelpful thinking that can easily snowball:

LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE: It’s not just you. Australia has allowed far more teachers to be trained than are required. This article from 2013 describes some of the issues and figures. Additionally, the raft of retirements we were promised is not happening, or happening very slowly. In 2011, in South Australia, the government offered $50,000 as an incentive for older, disillusioned teachers to move on. This was accompanied by a recruitment drive for new teachers, which turned out to be largely unnecessary.

The evidence is there, in those articles, that due to some poorly judged and inaccurate projections, thousands of educators are in the same situation. So stop beating yourself up, and remind yourself of the statistics.

ACCEPT: That sometimes life and work is unfair and inequitable, and your time may not come. Set a loose timeframe and have a plan about what you’ll do if you are still floating around by that deadline. Acceptance can be very calming, as well as empowering – you’ll know you did your best and will feel in better control of your life when you are making the decisions as a proactive operator rather than a passive pawn. The skills you collect and develop as a teacher are valued in many other industries. Check out this, which I found on Twitter: 101 Alternative Jobs for Teachers

RECOGNISE: That it hasn’t all been a waste of time. You have made many contributions and (hopefully) positively influenced the learning of many people, you’ve increased your own knowledge and skill base and made connections with people you may never have met otherwise. You have been appreciated and probably will get a chance to do all this again.

TAKE TIME OUT: to follow your passions. The best educators are those who are enthusiastic about what they teach. People passionate about their subject draw others in regardless of the topic.


Use this time on your hands to grow your skill base and develop a positive digital footprint.

  • Start a blog or a website to develop the skill of blogging so you can bring it to the classroom, connect with other bloggers and to research, think and reflect more deeply on educational matters. A blog about an interest or passion will also develop these skills and help to lift your mood;
  • Learn to code. Programming is a worldwide phenomenon and an essential 21st Century skill. If you can do it, you can teach it, create your own learning and teaching apps and gain the confidence to trouble-shoot technical gremlins wherever you encounter them;
  • Read. Read educational blogs, books and policies. Definitely read this:

    Dave Burgess' book is inspirational and very amusing

    Dave Burgess’ book is inspirational and very amusing

  • Get on Twitter. Twitter is jam packed full of amazing educators who are at the forefront of technology, innovation and child-centred education. You’ll find support, ideas and links to further reading. You’ll get infected with the enthusiasm that bubbles forth from every 140 character message and be keen to join in scheduled chats. In particular check out #aussieED #satchatoc #edtechchat You’ll find many more chat opportunities when you start to follow people with similar interests as yourself.
  • Get a lot more familiar with the curriculum . Concentrate on the age groups you usually teach and become an expert on achievement standards. Once you’ve done this, you can…
  • Start writing, collecting and curating, engaging, unusual and imaginative resources. If they’re really good, you can even sell them on Teachers Pay Teachers or to Australian Curriculum Lessons

Finally… If you’re genuinely worn down by the whole process, and you don’t really miss being in the classroom, give yourself permission to do something else. You have to have a lot of stamina, resilience, self-belief and energy to withstand the orchestrations of a selection system which can sometimes seem, at best unlucky and at worst, abusive.

Sincere good luck to you!

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