Quick Tips: Goals and Success

Here are a two more things that I’ve practiced to help build confident learners!

Goal Setting: You can help children feel confident and successful by creating realistic goals with them. By having conversations with about what their goals are, you can break up a task into doable sections and work with them to reach a goal one step at a time.

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Create opportunity for success: Get to know your child or student. I mean, really get to know them. Once you understand how they perceive success, how they learn, and who they are, you can help them structure their learning and build successful experiences for them. This doesn’t necessarily mean making something “easier” or “harder”. Creating opportunities for success can be done by simply being flexible and open to new routes of assessment or practice.

The joy of learning. Together. 


Making Mistakes

What I’m Reading: “A Mind at a Time” by Mel Levine. This book is an interesting exploration into the process of learning, and how adults can help children by working with their strengths. I just started the book but I’m excited to see what Levine has to say!

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Building Confident Learners: Allow room for mistakes. Learners of all ages feel threatened in an environment in which mistakes are not allowed. Make sure to create a space for your learner(s) to make a mistake or two- and then learn from it! Some very important things were invented on accident. Chocolate chip cookies and penicillin for example, are two inventions of arguably equal importance that were created on accident.

What Gives Me Joy: Hiking. I went for a hike with my husband, our dog Nikita, two friends, and their puppy (quite the crew) at Croft State Park. It sure is hot here but the hike was beautiful and rejuvenating!

The joy of learning. Together.



Anxiety in Children: Respect, Empower and Encourage



We all experience anxiety from time to time, some more than others. Children are no exception. As adults we may forget that children can have a lot to feel anxious about too! Academic performance, social situations and friendships, specific content areas in school, home life, extracurricular activities, homework, familial difficulties, poverty, hunger, and a lack of sleep are just a few things that cause anxiety for students.

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting about how parents can help their child work through periods of anxiety no matter what the trigger is.

  • Respect your child’s emotions. Their anxiety is real and very unpleasant for them. You can show them you support them by listening. To help them communicate, you can ask them to tell you what they are thinking. This may expose scary thoughts and images your child is experiencing.
  • Empower your child to solve a problem that may be making them feel anxious by asking them what they might do to handle a certain situation. Brainstorm with them!
  • Encourage your child. When they are trying to be brave or coming up with some great solutions, tell them how proud of them you are!

The joy of learning. Together.


Quick Tips: Choice and Praise

Ever wonder how to help a child feel successful and confident in their learning? Here are a two things I’ve practiced that make a big difference.


Give them a choice: Allow students to choose what they’d like to learn about within realistic dimensions. Does anyone like to be told exactly what to do? No. Empower students to enter the inquiry process by giving them options.

Appropriate Praise: We all appreciate a heartfelt compliment, especially when we’ve been working hard on something! Take the time to look at the hard work a student is doing and find something that you are genuinely proud of them for accomplishing. It doesn’t have to be a huge compliment, and it most certainly shouldn’t be made up. There is always something that deserves praise in a child’s work.

The joy of learning. Together. 




What I’m Reading: “Master of Mindfulness, How to Be Your Own Superhero in times of Stress” by Laurie Grossman, Angelia Alvarez and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class. I loved this book since I think mindfulness can really help a child excel. Plus it’s written by students for other students. Perfect!

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Building Confident Learners: Mindfulness! I truly believe that by bringing mindfulness practices into our everyday lives we can empower learners. For young people I think it’s a skill that can be easily applied to help them process their emotional experiences and enhance their learning.

What Gives Me Joy: Mindfulness! Are you surprised? Really, I have found that practicing mindfulness has enhanced my life. It has helped me focus on my gratitude for the beauty around me, the people I love and care for, and it gives me a little time to stop, relax, and listen.

The joy of learning. Together.


Perfectionism: The Antithesis of Growth

I hate making mistakes. Life feels so much easier when I get things right the first time without a struggle. I feel in control and closer to perfect when I am free of mistakes. But let’s be real, perfectionism and a life free of mistakes is at best a fleeting illusion. Although I’d much prefer to glide through life doing everything right because that would make me feel more comfortable, I know that it’s an impossibility. Through my work teaching children I have also learned that a perfectionism is no fun, and leads to absolutely no growth. We can’t truly learn without making mistakes. So while part of me honestly dislikes making mistakes, another, now bigger, part of me understands that human growth only happens when we are willing to try something new, to make mistakes, and to embrace the struggle from time to time.

During my first week of class this year I asked my 3rd grade students to raise their hands if any of them liked messing up. Nobody raised their hands. I said I didn’t really like messing up either, and asked why we don’t like to mess up. Students answered: “It means I’m not good at it.”, and ” I’ll be embarrassed and frustrated” and, ” It means I’m not a good person.” That last one really pulled my teacher heart strings. Why should any of us ever feel that a mistake means we’re inherently bad?

I followed up our discussion by telling them about a company that actively strives to have it’s employees make mistakes when designing a new product because through the mistakes they can troubleshoot and create the best possible product. I related to them that I hope to have this kind of environment in our classroom, except more fun and less “adult-worldy”. Of course I don’t want students to purposefully make errors without trying to solve the problem at hand, but I am happy when an error is made within true inquiry based learning. Making mistakes in a safe learning environment leads to better solutions, a stronger sense of ability and confidence, and joy in learning. I should note that I do strive for excellence in myself and in my students. Excellence is not perfection. Excellence simply means “high quality” and I believe that doing your best (even when it’s not perfect) and working hard to produce the best possible outcome is a form of excellence. On the journey to excellence, and it is a journey, I believe that children are naturally better at mistakes than adults. In my experience,  they tend to bounce back from errors with minimal damage to their egos because their mind are elastic and still being molded. Adults can learn to be comfortable making mistakes too, but it’s hard (I’m speaking for myself here).

By the end of the year I asked my students what they thought of making mistakes. They said: “You learn from your mistakes”, “When you make a mistake you always try again.” and “It’s OK, just don’t do it on purpose!”.

So fellow adults, let’s take a step back and learn from our children. Let’s set out egos aside, throw ourselves into whatever task we have at hand and gt comfortable being a little bit wrong from time to time. Let’s remember that it’s not only OK to make mistakes, but it’s also an integral part of being human. If we choose to grow and learn from our mistakes, we are better of for having made them.

The joy of learning. Together.


If you liked what I said here, check out this article by Dr. Richard Curwin.