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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

As a teacher, it’s important to keep up with educational reading and psychological growth. Mindset was recommended to me by another English teacher, who said that it made her look at success and failure in a different way and helped her understand the roles students play in the classroom when success and failure is on the line.

I enjoyed reading Mindset. The book focuses on two types of mindset: fixed and growth. People with the fixed mindset tend to believe that they have fixed abilities and talents that are what they are and cannot be further developed. To people with the fixed mindset, a failure is an embarrassment and affirmation that they cannot and will never be able to do whatever they failed at. The growth mindset is the opposite. Growth minded people tend to believe that with effort, they can achieve anything. They look at failures as learning opportunities.

Seems simple, right?

Wrong.

Carol Dweck sets out to answer several questions. Teacher-important questions include: How do mindsets affect students? How can I, as a teacher, cultivate the growth mindset in students? Can mindsets change?

Dweck argues that children are direct products of what they see and hear. If they see an adult “fail” and take it badly, that sets the example that failure is bad. The same is true when it comes to praising. We tend (yes, I said we, because I’ve done it, too) to praise based on ability and whether or not students did a “good” job. This can also put students in the fixed mindset category. If we keep saying, “Wow! You’re so talented! You made this look effortless!” When that same student struggles with something, they’ll think they’re no longer talented and are unable to achieve success. However, if we praise students based on hard work and effort, they will continue to work hard to achieve that success.

So is Dweck’s argument solid? Yes. Not only does she do a wonderful job of giving examples, I’ve also tried this out in my classroom. I’ve switched my praising technique (and am still working toward becoming a growth minded person) and I’ve seen definite results. Students who wanted nothing to do with English in the beginning of the year because, quote, “I’m not good at it,” are now coming up to me and saying they enjoy it and think they’re getting better at it. Because they are! They’re trying and always succeeding. They’re making mistakes and learning from them. To me, that’s success.

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer by Richie Tankersley Cusick

As a child, and I mean Elementary-level, I loved watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV before school. In fact, I was once sent home early for threatening to stab a boy with a “wooden stake” (snapped tree branch) because he was creepy and was therefore a vampire. I had an overactive imagination.

I’ve attempted, several times, to watch the Kristy Swanson movie version, but cannot get past the crazy attire. When I found the novelization, written by Richie Tankersley Cusick, on the shelves of the local Goodwill while scouring for potential classroom library books, I had to pick it up and take it home. It took me all of four hours to read.

To me, it was a fun, fast, easy read. It was entertaining, but I’ll probably never pick it up again. I was looking for something that might be so scary as to give me nightmares as it is close to Halloween. I definitely won’t be having nightmares about vampires after reading this. For the most part, I found the writing and descriptions funny, not nightmare-inducing.

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

The Murder at the Vicarage is Agatha Christie’s first Miss Marple Mystery. So far, I’ve read three or four Miss Marple Mysteries and greatly enjoy them, however, this book was my least favorite. It started out so boring and the plot seemed to take forever to develop. Generally, the story begins with the murder (as in the murder has already occurred or is currently occurring) or the murder happens at some point during the first couple of chapters. In The Murder at the Vicarage, Colonel Protheroe is not killed until chapter six or seven. This is hard to handle and makes for a boring story when one has already read the back summary and knows that the character is to die. It’s absolutely horrible, but I found myself in my favorite reading chair, with a cup of Earl Gray, wishing the Colonel dead so that the story would pick up.

I will admit, that toward the middle of the book (page 150 or so), the story did become rather interesting and did catch my attention. In fact, I stayed up until 12:30 one night to finish it – on a school night, no less! I was very surprised by the ending, as I had pegged one of the characters almost definitely.

Agatha Christie is a master (mistress) at writing mysteries.

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Edition: Fear of the Dark by Trevor Braxendale

In the past year, I have become unbelievably addicted to the widely popular British television show, Doctor Who. Generally, I don’t jump on bandwagons, but after hearing the name and the crazy sounding plot from multiple friends who have very similar interests to myself, I had to watch. From the first two minutes of Series One, starring Christopher Eccelston as the Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as his companion, Rose, I was HOOKED. At one point, during Series Four, with David Tennant as Ten and Katherine Tate as Donna Noble, I even said Doctor Who was better than Harry Potter. Can you imagine? I think everyone in the room fainted. I almost fainted.

Anyway, since the 50th Anniversary Editions of the “best” books published for each Doctor was released, I’ve been reading them. Some of them are quite good, others, not so much. This one, Fear of the Dark, by Trevor Braxendale, is the first I’ve read since creating this blog, and it’s probably the best one that I have read so far.

It centers around the Fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davidson. The fact that Peter is David Tennant’s father-in-law, and the fact that David is my favorite Doctor, might be why I enjoyed getting to know Peter’s Doctor so much. I found so many parallels between Five and Ten that it was seemingly unbelievable.

But that’s neither here nor there. In Fear of the Dark, Braxendale offers a look into the dark side of the Doctor – the place that isn’t full of endless amounts of hope and wisdom. That’s what is so incredible about this book. Yes, there’s a wonderful plot, centered around the dark mystery of the planet Akoshemon and it’s moon, and a deadly figure represented as the Dark or Darkness, but there is also some amazing character development. We see the Doctor optimistic, then slightly broken. In the last part, we see his mind crippled – that mind we have come to know as indestructible has been breached – but the Doctor goes on fighting. In the end, the Doctor doesn’t save the day. Yes, the day is saved, but in a startling way; to Doctor Who fans, perhaps, in the wrong way. The Doctor’s assumptions about this new, alien enemy are correct, but his assumptions about human nature are wrong. And isn’t the Doctor supposed to be an expert on humans? Viewers of the show and readers of the books view him as such.

That’s the beauty of Trevor Braxendale’s Fear of the Dark. He is able to get inside the Doctor’s mind, find the Doctor’s vulnerability, and subsequently use that vulnerability to nearly destroy him, to the point of the Doctor nearly throwing in the towel while asking for a hundred deaths over and over and over again.

Invitation Only by Kate Brian

It’s come as a bit of a shock to me that I still enjoy reading the Private series by Kate Brian. I figured they were an obsession of my late high school and early college years due to my lack of fashion, desire to be something “better,” and my yearning for acceptance. I’ve found that I still like these books, but I don’t believe I enjoy them the same way I did before.

I hate saying this, but they’re just “easy reads.” Reads that don’t challenge me much (at all, really) and don’t take up all my precious time. I’ve also found that they keep me in tune with my younger self and my students.

I must also admit that I very much like the glitz and the glam...that hasn’t changed at all.

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