Why we need to teach our students to think

There has been a lot of talk about growth mindset recently. On Twitter I have seen lots of images of lovely, new school displays emblazoned with motivational quotes to change the mindset of the teenagers we teach. But is it enough to say ‘yet’ in response to our students claim that they don’t know the answer? Will this change the stubborn, niggly, fixed mindsets that so many of the young people we teach, and the colleagues we work with, share? Surely they require the critical thinking skills to accept the fact that they are yet to understand but are equally able to recognise why it is they need to learn to understand.

This post is inspired by a twilight session I have attended at my school. The focus was achieving A*/A at sixth form through developing the students’ critical thinking skills. As a department we recognised the necessity to consider the key concepts we teach at A-Level and ensure these are filtered down to our schemes of learning at KS4 and KS3 in order for students to think for themselves about the learning.

We discussed the point of our subject; what students can gain from our subject; how we help students to develop their critical thinking skills and how we define critical thinking. Ultimately, we decided the value of English was that students have the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. We hope our students feel they have a voice in society; are able to make informed decisions and are confident in their understanding of texts/their society/the world so question and challenge the views of others in a respectful manner.

And my question to you is, is that not the fundamentals required to develop a growth mindset? In order to recognise that a fixed mindset can be detrimental to our learning, do we not need to learn to think and consider the value of a growth mindset?

Nurture 2014/15

Five things I liked about 2014:
1. I passed my PGCE course as an ‘excellent’ teacher.
This was something I aspired to all year and at times it probably hindered my wellbeing. However, I truly loved what I was doing and therefore wanted to be the best at it that I could possibly be. In my ‘quest’ for excellence, I had to become a reflective practitioner and this is what, I believe, allowed me to qualify as excellent. I try to continue to consider what went well in my lessons and how aspects of the lessons could be improved to ensure my progress and that of my students does not stagnate.
2. I ran the London Marathon and raised over £1500 for Teenage Cancer Trust.
Running the marathon was horrific and wonderful all at the same time. I have never experienced so much physical pain both in the training and the marathon itself. Yet, I have never been so overwhelmed by people’s generosity – both in terms of financial support and also moral. Unfortunately, I suffered quite badly from shin splints during my training. One week I had ran 14 miles, the next I could not manage 2. This seriously hindered my training and preparation, however so many people had supported me I knew I just had to put my compression socks on and hope for the best! As a result, my final time was slower than I would have hoped but I could not have asked for a better day. The support from the crowds was so inspiring and the prosecco at the end, after not drinking for 10 weeks, tasted delicious!
3. I held a TLTea Party at my school.
As a naive, enthusiastic NQT, this was a rather daunting task. However, I felt so inspired following the fantastic TLT14 that I wanted to continue some of the discussions with my colleagues at my school. On a dreary Thursday afternoon, in the midst of Year 11 mock marking and report writing, a number of teachers turned up to discuss teaching and learning, drink tea and, most importantly, eat cake. I had some great feedback from staff who attended: many felt as if they had learned new strategies to try out in their classrooms but also really relished the opportunity to discuss their pedagogy in an informal setting.
4. I have a fantastic Year 10 group who I am excited to take into Year 11 this year.
They proved how great they were – not that they hadn’t already – on our final lesson of term. Over the term they had been working in groups on an extended homework project to complete a female empowerment advert. The work they produced was exceptional and they thoroughly deserved the popcorn we ate whilst watching them.
5. Most evenings I leave my work at work.
I had not expected I would be able to do this during my NQT year however I think I have got better at using my time more productively at school. As a result, most of the time I am able to leave my work at work and I believe I am a better teacher for it. I have more time to be Charlotte rather than Miss Brunton which means I treasure the time I am Miss Brunton because I am not so exhausted.


5 things I would like for 2015:
1. Get better at teaching.
I think I have realised that there is a very small amount of time and a very specific place for bells and whistles in lessons. It is far more important that the students are learning. I want to ensure I am always considering the learning when planning my lessons and then the bells and whistles may naturally arrive.
2. To cook more.
I love trying new foods however I very rarely attempt to cook new food myself. I have the dinners I know how to cook and this is what I stick with. But that is boring so this year I want to ensure I try a new recipe at least once a month.
3. Travel more.
I love exploring new places and I am quite good at it. However, as the world is so large and I keep being told it is my oyster I must get on with seeing more of it. After all, I’ve got to fill all those holidays us lazy teachers get somehow.
4. Feel fit again.
As a teenager, I was a competitive track runner and therefore was super fit. However, injury and university happened and wobbly bits are fast taking over those areas that were previously rock hard. I keep moaning about it but only ever doing sporadic exercise. This year, I am going to ensure I exercise regularly so I can continue to eat maltesers when marking and not feel too naughty (or wobbly).
5. To continue to love my job.
I must remind myself that there will always be rubbish days but I need to get over that because the good days easily outnumber the rubbish days.