The Power of a Growth Mindset


There were many successes for me this week, not because things went according to plan or came out the way that I wanted them to, but because I was able to see progress and growth.  This is huge for me. I have struggled with perfectionism for far too long. In fact, my husband describes my relationship with perfectionism as “intimate”. Recently, however, I have been retraining my thinking and working on seeing progress instead of failure.

Just a few weeks ago I heard a speaker say that success is in the trying. He talked about celebrating risk every time, even when the outcome is not what we had hoped for. In order to move forward, we must keep trying and being okay with not getting it right. For along time I have encouraged others to take risks and see progress along the way. I know that a growth mindset is important, and yet I wasn’t able to move that from head knowledge to heart knowledge- a deep knowing that changes how I see myself. This week I am finally seeing signs that there is a change taking place and I am celebrating it.

The online learning experience I created and taught this week was too challenging for my class. There was a great deal of confusing and lots of students asking for help. The adults in the room (I had 3!) were great and assisted where they could, and yet only one student completed the task I had given them. Through it all I kept a good attitude, adjusting as I could and encouraging the students. I walked away tired, but not beaten down. I could recognize that both the students and I learned from the experience.

I tried something new and succeeded not because it went smoothly, but because I took a risk and learned something in the process. Now that is progress 🙂

How about you? Are you celebrating the risks that you are taking? proud

The Danger of Expecting Excellence


Excellence is a tricky thing.  We want students to strive for excellence, don’t we? I know I strive for excellence in my life. Most of the time that is a good thing, but lately it has become a problem. None of us can be excellent at all things. As an adult juggling the demands of being a mother, wife, home educator, graduate student, teacher candidate, homeschool collaborative leader, and part-time art teacher,  I have been running myself into the ground trying to do all those things with excellence. My expectations for myself have been too high. I have placed too much value in getting everything right the first time instead of realizing that it is okay to be where I am and take one step forward. I am working a developing more of a growth mindset for myself.

I saw it in one of my students this week, a very similar mindset to the one that I am trying to leave behind. She was extremely anxious about beginning her drawing of a map of Colonial America because she was afraid she wasn’t going to do it well enough. She didn’t feel that she had the skills to make it looked like the real map and therefore struggled to even begin. Perhaps her self-confidence was shaken because she was asked to do a task way outside her comfort zone. I get it, I have been there quite a bit recently. I have been asked to do many things outside my comfort zone. The interesting thing that I am realizing is that they are outside my comfort zone because I don’t think I can succeed at them immediately. I can’t be excellent right away. And I am not good at failing. I can tell a student all day long how important it is to take risks and that failing is a great sign that you are learning, but when it comes to me failing, YIKES- that is scary.

This past month has really helped to put me in the shoes of my students and I think I am making some progress towards letting go of excellence all the time and learning to work from where I am at and move one step forward. Growing in increments is way less painful than huge growth spurts that cause growing pains and leave stretch marks.

I am realizing how important it is to choose where I strive for excellence wisely. To have realistic expectations for myself in areas where I am growing, and recognize that am moving forward in these areas. Lastly, I want to be sure that I continue to put a higher priority on relationships in my life than getting everything right. Maybe in the end it isn’t the danger of excellence, but the danger of unrealistic expectations.

Do you struggle with unrealistic expectations in yourself? In your students? How can we encourage our students who struggle with the fear of failing?  How can we encourage ourselves not to be paralyzed with the fear of failing?


(Thanks to Carolyn Cormier’s video tweet that sparked this blog post.Video here.)


Do Math and Art Go Together?

Absolutely! The intersection of math and art is one of my favorite topics. I love how using art to explore math concepts opens up a whole new world to so many students. Not only does it bring beauty and engagement to math lessons, it helps students to see how math applies to the real world in completely new way.

My Favorite Math Art lessons:

Fraction Art (Fractions & Symmetry) Fraction Circle Art

fraction art

Frank Stella Protractor Art (pastels and watercolor resist) Protractor Art

stella protractor

Fibonacci – (Golden Ratio) Fibonacci Golden Ratio Art


String Art with Parabolic Curves String Art

string art

Notan (papercutting)  Notan Geometric Art


Radial Symmetry with Printmaking  Radial Printmaking

radial printmaking.png

Tessellations  Tessellation Instructions Rotational Tessellations


The Balance Between Freedom and Boundaries

This week I have spent some time thinking about how to balance my desire to give students as much freedom as possible while recognizing that boundaries can often be helpful to them. I have noticed that sometimes students are paralyzed when they are given almost complete freedom in an assignment. They are overwhelmed with the possibilities. Sometimes adding just a few parameters can help students not be overwhelmed.

An example would be free writing time. Sometimes students will stare at the blank page and have no idea what to write. Giving them a writing prompt such as, “My dream vacation would be…” or “I would like to learn how to…” can give them a direction to go in while still giving them some freedom.

In my art classes, it happens frequently, not knowing what to draw or create when given free reign. I often give students some ideas or examples and then let them make a choice on what to create.

I, myself, was overwhelmed this week by too many possibilities for topics for planning out a social studies unit. Colonial America was just too big of a topic. Once I finally got it narrowed down to one major objective, that students will be able to compare colonist’s experiences given the natural resources available to them, their race, and their economic status, was freeing to me. It helped me to narrow my thoughts and focus on one topic.

Interesting how freedom can be paralyzing and parameters can be freeing. I think it depends so much on the student. I’ve noticed that there are students who need structure more than others. Some students do best when they are told exactly what to do, while others thrive on endless possibilities. I have been thinking about how to lead students who crave structure to become more comfortable with independent thinking and coming up with possibilities. Outside the box thinking does not come naturally to many of us, but I think it can be nurtured. I love engineering challenges for this purpose and to increase flexible thinking.

How do you find the right balance?

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I Don’t Know It All…I Never Will

I Don’t Know It All…I Never Will

This is such an important perspective to have as a teacher. I am still learning and will be for the rest of my life. Students need to see this. I need to be okay with this. More than that, I should be excited about continuing to discover new information or skills. We as teachers should be modeling passion for lifelong learning for our students.


Yesterday was a great example. We were doing word work in our class and one of the instructions was to break down the vocabulary words into syllables. The classroom teacher expressed out loud to the class that she wasn’t sure how to break down the word “syllables” into syllables. Should it be syll*a*bles or syl*la*bles? She asked me what I thought and I told her my guess. The classroom assistant thought it was the opposite and went to the dictionary to look it up.The teacher pointed out to the students that as adults we don’t always know the answers. The assistant read from the dictionary that it should in fact, be syl*la*bles.  I went to my phone to find the rules so that we could understand the why behind it. The teacher returned to her instructions, but at an appropriate stopping point I read the rule that applied to the class and we discussed it. Then we went around the room and found student’s names that applied to the rule and broke their names into syllables.


This was great modelling for the students. They saw that we didn’t know the answer, didn’t think it was a big deal, and went and found the necessary information. They saw us have a discussion with different opinions expressed in a very cordial way. Then we investigated using several sources and applied what we learned. The teacher who was “wrong” was not upset in any way, just happy to know the correct answer.

Are You Teachable? - Candice Elaine

Prioritizing Creativity Over Structure


inside the lines

Creativity: Ingenuity, imagination, invention, design, cleverness, divergent thinking, innovation, originality, out-of-the-box thinking, conception, vision.

I naturally like order and structure. I like to plan what is going to happen and then carry that plan out. Efficiency has been one of my objectives for a long time. And yet, over the last 10 years or so, I have been gravitating to the messy and relational. Don’t get me wrong, I still like order, but I have learned that it is not my top priority. Helping people is. In education, this means helping students to find their unique strengths and passions and develop the skills they need to bring those talents to the world to make it a better place. Too much structure and order stifles student’s passions and creativity. I want them to individually become who they are meant to be, instead of becoming adults who all think and act alike.

I want students to learn how to navigate this big world we live in, with all of its quirks and challenges. To do this they must be able to creatively handle problems as they arise. They need to learn to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions. This can only be learned by practicing these skills. We must encourage them to take risks, to not rely on formulas or “the way things have always been done”.

We can encourage creative thinking with problem solving challenges. The first one to come to mind would be an engineering challenge to build the tallest tower with a specific set supplies. Math problem solving could be planning the best birthday party with $100. Art problem solving could be to ask students to create a circle using only straight lines. You get the idea. Problem solving challenges in which there are more than one answer can be created for every academic area.

Better than these created challenges however, are real world problems that are meaningful to the students. Have your students identify a need in your community and then brainstorm and collaborate to come up with possible solutions. Does your school need a new playground? Have the students create proposals using the budget that is available. Could your school use a new mural on the wall? Have the students work together to create a few proposals and then submit them to the school administration. Are student’s unhappy with their hot lunch options? Have them find out what the USDA nutritional requirements are and come up with alternate meal ideas. The possibilities are endless.

Some schools are using senior projects to give students experience with self-directed learning, project management, and practical application of skills. I think this is a fantastic model, but my question would be, why wait until senior year and only have them do one big project? As teachers we should strive to integrate as much real world problem solving and creative thinking as we can at all levels in order to give our students the skills they need to succeed in this ever change world in which we live, even when this means letting go over our preference for order and structure.Art-Quote-683x1024

I drew inspiration for this post from these articles:


Welcome to my new blog, Creative Learning!

One of my favorite quotes is “Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” Helping students find what sets their soul on fire and giving them the tools to pursue it is what sets my soul on fire.  I found this passion through homeschooling my own children for the past 14 years, as well as leading a homeschool collaborative of 20 families for the past 5 years. Currently, I am in the process of becoming a certified teacher with a dual certification in Special Education and Elementary Education and am volunteering at an arts based charter school for my field placement.

I hope to create a learning environment that:

–  Fans into flames a passion for life-long learning in my students.

–  Engages students in the learning process with hands-on activities, discussion, and collaborative projects.

–  Is sensitive to all learning styles and abilities, so that struggling learners are able to participate and have success in a positive and loving environment that encourages taking risks, failing, and trying again.

–  Is a place where kids discover their gifts and talents as well as the confidence to take those talents into their communities to make the world a better place.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you!


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