Category Archives: Books

Mindset Parent/Teacher Book Study Reflection

The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.

One of my grand ideas last year was to try a Parent/Teacher book study.  Having read Mindset, by Carol Dweck, I felt that it was the perfect book since it has advice for parents, teachers, and coaches. I applied for a grant from our PTA to purchase the books before the end of last school year with the plan to distribute them before the summer for everyone to read.  We would then meet together in person in September.

The first thing that didn’t go as I predicted was that far more teachers signed up than parents.  The teacher interest was probably due in no small part to the chance of earning professional development credit.  However, I gave the parents little incentive, and that was completely my fault.

During the summer, I sent out e-mails in an attempt to keep interest going.  These e-mails included links to SMORE flyers with book, music, and video suggestions.  There was also a link to a Padlet for feedback on the book.  Again, there was very little response.

As the meeting date closed in last week, I began to panic.  Few people had RSVP’ed and only 1/3 of them were parents.  I mentioned door prizes and childcare, which drew a couple more responses.  (However, it turned out that no one brought their child, after all.)

The meeting was from 6-7 PM. When the participants RSVP’ed, they signed up for 1 of 4 breakout sessions, and to bring snacks, napkins, or plates.  Out of the 40+ books I gave out, about 21 people came. We met in the library first, where I showed a couple of videos.  Then we pooled all of the snacks and supplies before going to breakout sessions.  Each session was in a different classroom with an iPad, and the participants shared out responses and suggestions to a Padlet for their session.  Here are some of their answers:

perseverancecommunity mindset Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 7.36.41 PM

One of my favorite quotes, from teacher Amy Huebner, was, “Prioritize your child’s learning over your time.”  She explained this to mean that we often do things for our children b/c it’s faster and easier when they could learn so much more by doing it themselves. Very true!

After coming back to the library to share the Padlets, the group played a Kahoot game on Mindset to compete for door prizes.  It was very competitive, and seemed to be a great way to end the evening! Of course, I messed up the whole experience by putting the wrong answer down for the very last question, so we had a bit of a discussion about learning from our (my) mistakes…

The next day, I sent out a form to everyone to gather feedback in case we ever try something like this again.  Only teachers responded :(  Kudos to them for taking the time b/c that was definitely not a required part of their professional development hours!

Here are some of the summaries:





I am very conscious of taking people’s time, so I was gratified to see the last responses.  It was also interesting to see in the comments that a few people thought it would be worth it to add some time to the actual meeting so we could have more breakout sessions and follow-up time.

One suggestion that also seemed like a great idea was to ask parents for a book suggestion next time.  Love that!

To sum things up:

  • I’m glad we did this.
  • I wish more people, particularly parents, would have participated. (We need to offer more incentives and ask for input before starting the next project.)
  • I think it would be a good idea to try this again, using the feedback from the first time to improve it.

If you would like more Mindset resources, take a look at this Pinterest Board for articles, video links, and much more!

Region 20 Library Resource Roundup

The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.

My partner-in-crime (actually, I’m generally the victim of her crimes), Angelique Lackey, who is our school’s librarian, submitted our names to present at Region 20’s Library Resource Roundup on a 3d printer curriculum we are using.  We were accepted – which meant I got to attend some awesome sessions while nervously waiting for our presentation time near the end of the day.

One of my big interests is makerspaces, and there were some great sessions on these at the conference.  I learned how David Gallin-Parisi provides a space in his high school library for students to remix, imagine, and create using Little Bits and the 3D printer (among other things).

I also met Joe Tedesco who works for Northside ISD, a district that is doing some revolutionary things with makerspaces in the library. Joe is very interested in collaborating, and has started a Google Site called, “SA Makerspaces for Education.” (SA is for “San Antonio.”)   One idea that Northside is trying is to make “kits” for librarians to check out from their Central Office so costly materials like Little Bits can be rotated around the school for maximum usage. (For more info on makerspaces, check out this Pinterest Board or search my blog.)

At lunch, I had the great honor of sitting with Angelique, Dee Dee Davenport (our district’s Library Services Coordinator) and local author, Jeff Anderson.  Jeff has written a book called Zach Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth.   It is set in San Antonio, and the main character is a 6th grader.  It’s hilarious, and a great suggestion for Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans who are ready for a book with less pictures.


Another highlight at lunch was a presentation by Moonbot Studios. Moonbot Studios is the incredible company behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  This book, and the  imaginative short animation of the story, are two of my favorite resources.  A representative from the company came to speak at the conference, and then we were supposed to Skype with the author/illustrators of the book (and many others), William Joyce and Joe Bluhm.

However, a happy accident occurred.  We could see, but we couldn’t hear.  So, not to be deterred, William Joyce took us on a silent but delightful tour of Moonbot Studios – showing us work they had done as well as works in progress.  William Joyce skipped around and hammed for the camera like a young boy, and proudly showed us the Oscar for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.


I was so inspired by this wonderful day spent with librarians, authors, and makers!  This is the kind of professional development I would gladly participate in on a regular basis :)

Mindset Book Study Update to the Update

As some of you know, our school has been doing a Parent/Teacher book study on the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck.  I am reading the book for the third time, and I am still finding parts that strike me differently depending on “who I am” when I read it.  As a teacher, a parent, a wife, and a sometimes leader, I recognize different pieces of myself, my husband, my daughter, and other people I interact with on a regular basis.

There is so much to gain from reading this book.  However, I know not all of you have the time to do this.  You can get a sense of its message by looking at our Smore Book Study posters.  These include links, quotes, videos, and more.  You can also access more resources on my Pinterest Board.

These are the main things I have learned from the book that have impacted the way I teach and how I raise my child:

  • Telling children they are “smart” is ultimately detrimental as they attribute all of their successes to an innate ability instead of hard work.  This results in children who are unwilling to try new things or take on challenges.  Praising them isn’t wrong; we just need to word our praises carefully.  Here are some suggestions.
  • We need to model how to react to setbacks (sometimes known as “failures”!) by taking responsibility, not giving up, and showing children how we learn from our mistakes.  Most importantly, we need to not blame others when something doesn’t go our way.  When we don’t reach a goal, think of it as not reaching it yet – not as having failed.  Check out Dweck’s TED talk on the Power of Yet.
  • Instead of making a big deal about grades, we need to emphasize learning.  A’s are nothing to be proud of if they require little effort to achieve.  I’ve already told my daughter that I would rather she make a B in a class where she learned a lot, then an A in a class that she coasts through.  This may result in less college options – but it will make her a lifelong learner who is a problem-solver.
  • I know I said this before, but model, model, MODEL!  I tell my students stories of setbacks and ways I dealt with them (some of them not so well).  I reflect out loud.  I try to let them see me or hear about me stepping outside my comfort zone.  When my computer doesn’t work in class, I try not to say, “I hate technology!” Instead, I show the students how I troubleshoot. The same goes for my daughter.  She sees and hears about my struggles and knows I’m not perfect. (Since she’s at the age where kids figure that out anyway, I’m pretty sure trying to hid my imperfections would just teach her to deal with her own similarly.) If you want to show your children another great role model, try this video.

I’ve seen true differences in my students and my daughter since I began to apply the principles I learned from Mindset a few years ago. I encourage you to read the book and put it into practice, too.

My students referred to this bulletin board on a regular basis last year - knowing that I admire people who embrace a challenge.
My students referred to this bulletin board on a regular basis last year – knowing that I admire people who embrace a challenge and a Growth Mindset.


Mindset Book Study Update

“The judges were biased.”

“The coach just doesn’t like me.”

“My teacher doesn’t challenge me enough.”

Have you heard any of these statements from a child before?  I know I have.  When my daughter told me that her scores were low in a synchronized swimming competition because of the judges, it was very tempting to agree with her.  I knew she was devastated by the numbers, and I wanted to console her by letting her think it wasn’t her fault.

But then I remembered what I learned about a Growth Mindset. And I knew that blaming her scores on the judges would only be implying that she would never have control over her level of achievement in this sport.  Instead of agreeing, I gently prodded her into thinking about what she could have done differently, and how more practice might have helped.  By the end of the conversation, she felt better about the plan we put in place for her to make those scores higher next year.

At the beginning of the summer I mentioned that our school is doing a Parent/Teacher Book Study with Mindset, by Carol Dweck.  I just sent out an update to those participating about Chapters 4 & 5. Chapter 4 is an excellent section about sports, and every parent and teacher should be able to identify.  You can apply its lessons to any area in which one strives to achieve.  The new Smore I sent out to those involved in the book study encourages thought and discussion. It includes a video, song suggestions for young students, and other links.

michael jordan quote

One thing that Dweck mentions in Chapter 5 about businesses is that we are failing future employees and leaders by praising them in the wrong way as children.  By saying things like, “You’re so smart,” we are sending the message that they achieve things because of innate talent instead of hard work and perseverance.  This article by Angela Stockman is a treasure chest of alternative ways to praise – which are more specific and show  that we recognize students who have worked hard to earn their success.

Feel free to take a look at our Smore, and/or add your own comments to the Padlet link that is included.  Also, if you would like more Mindset resources, here is a link to my Pinterest Board for Growth Mindset.

Mindset Book Study

Something I saw on Twitter about a year ago planted a seed in my head that it would be great to have a Parent/Teacher book study.  I’d just read Mindset by Carol Dweck, and thought that would be the perfect book.

We got a grant from our PTA to buy 30 books, with the idea that there would be about 15 parents and 15 teachers who would participate.  In a school of about 600 students, I thought it would be easy to find parents who would be interested, but I was worried about finding teachers.  We were giving the book out right before summer break, and I knew that many were ready to relax and hit the beach with books that are in no-way-related-to-school.

It turned out that my prediction was wrong.  More than enough teachers signed up – some even offered to buy their own books if there weren’t enough.  However, it took several e-blasts and personal pleas to interest 15 parents.  We finally got a group of over 30 people, and delivered all of the books right before the school year was over.

The idea is for everyone to read the book over the summer, and to then come together for a discussion in September.  I deliberately decided not to make any summer participation mandatory, but I did want to send out frequent highlights of the book, links, and some optional discussion boards.

I created a Padlet for the first month, and then sent this Smore link (that includes the Padlet link) to all of the participants.  So far, I’m the only one to post to the Padlet – so this idea might be a complete dud.  Or it might just take everyone time to feel comfortable discussing.  Or everyone thinks I’m a dork and they are silently thinking, “Doesn’t this girl ever stop thinking about school?!!”

Anyway, I wanted to share the Smore I did for this month with all of you.  You might enjoy the links, including the one to Dr. Michele Borba’s article about teaching your children not to be quitters.  You might want to share it with others, or you might want to comment on the Padlet yourself so my comment doesn’t feel isolated and ostracized :(

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Click here to access the entire Mindset Flyer for June

Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life

In my post about books that make great graduation gifts, I mentioned that this book looked promising but I hadn’t had a chance to read it yet.  Well, I can now say that I have read it, and definitely recommend it as a nice gift for children who might be “graduating” from Kinder or another primary grade. It might even appeal to older graduates; a friend of mine attested that she gave the book as a gift to an appreciative cat-loving niece graduating from college.

Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life (Tips from a Cool Cat for living an AWESOME LIFE) is written by Kimberly and James Dean.  (I’m assuming not the James Dean.)  The book includes many inspirational quotes in their original form with Pete the Cat’s interpretation on the facing page.

For example, Oscar Wilde’s quote, “Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken,” is translated by Pete as, “If you want to be cool, just be you.”

My favorite quote is from Mark Twain. “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

Pete’s take on this? “Dude, don’t even think about it.”

I wouldn’t give this to a child to read on his or her own.  It’s meant to be shared and discussed.  Classroom teachers and parents can use the book to spark dialogues and new artistic interpretations.  I would probably not let the child see Pete’s explanations for each quote until after discussing the original quote.

image from: Pet the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life
image from: Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life

Another fun idea, if you are a teacher, would be to read the original quote to the class, have them restate it in their own words (and possibly illustrate it), and then compile them and compare to Pete’s statement.

7 Books That Make Great Graduation Gifts

After doing yesterday’s post about videos to inspire graduates, I realized that I could easily  list a few books that I would recommend as graduation gifts.  Oh, The Places You’ll Go is a regular favorite, but here are some lesser known choices that might work:

For Kindergarten or Primary Students:

Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberly and James Dean image from: Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life by

image from: Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life by Kimberly and James Dean


For Elementary (5th or 6th Grades) or Middle School Graduates:

Heroes for my Daughter (or Heroes for my Son) by Brad Meltzer

365 Days of Wonder by RJ Palacios

Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Brad Montague and Robbie Novak

For High School or College Graduates:

Whatever You Are Be a Good One by Lisa Congdon

Zen Pencils Book by Gavin Than

Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated edited by Larry Smith

Of course, you don’t have to restrict your gift-giving to graduates. Teachers and administrators might appreciate these, too ;)

You can check out more general gift ideas on this Pinterest Board, and I have some other recommended books here.