Archive | July 2012

Opening Minds by Peter Johnston


About a month ago, while browsing through Twitter I came across the hashtag #cyberpd and a tweet by Laura Komos that encouraged people to read the book Opening Minds by Peter Johnston and join a group that was going to discuss the book in July. I decided that I would jump straight in and ordered the book. Well, the book took a long time to get to Australia and I have only recently received my copy. Even though I started behind everyone else I am still hoping to be able to keep up.

Here are the most important things that I have taken away from chapters 1-3:

Chapter One is called “Choosing Words, Choosing Worlds”. I think this sums up the first point nicely. The words we choose to use in our classrooms help to create and define the classroom worlds for our students and ourselves (page 1). It is important to remember that we as teachers have a huge role to play in shaping our classroom worlds. I loved on page 1 when Peter Johnston described a time when one of his nieces said “I need a bigger world”. This made me think, what are we doing to create a bigger world for our students?

I have been involved in a conference called PLNLEAD which looks at how to lead in a networked world. As a result most of what I am reading and learning about at the moment comes back to creating sustainable local and global connections for my class and how to encourage others to expand their “worlds” and make connections.

I think it is important to reflect on the words we use and how we can challenge our students to move forward and not stand still. The example in Chapter Two that talked about the word ‘yet’ made me think about how something as small as the word yet can make such a difference. If we challenge students to think of the areas they need to work on as areas they haven’t yet mastered instead of areas they will never understand we give students the power to influence their own learning. Just a simple shift in mindset can result in a student believing in themselves and in turn achieving what they thought they couldn’t.

In Chapter Two, Peter Johnston mentions two types of students. Those who adopt a fixed-learning frame and those who adopt a dynamic learning frame. Students who adopt the fixed-learning frame think of themselves as never being good at something or already being smart at something. Those with a dynamic-learning frame consider that if they work hard they will be able to achieve anything. We need to encourage our student to adopt a dynamic-learning frame so they can learn as much as they can and expand their “worlds”.

Chapter Three discusses the need for students to see that they are on a learning journey and to recognise how far they have come. Students who view themselves as dynamic learners realise the importance of learning from mistakes and are not afraid to get things wrong. I think it is so important for teachers to encourage students to take risks and to have a go in the safe environment of the classroom. Page 32 talks about asking the questions “What are you thinking?” and “How did you do that?” These two questions open up many possibilities for teachers to encourage students to see the power of their learning.

Term Three begins for my State tomorrow. I hope that with a new term I can bring a fresh mindset to my classroom and continue to help my students to value their learning journey as much as I value my own.

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