Dear 8th Graders,
Last week, in Science, I promised that I would write you a letter. This year is challenging. I sense that we are all struggling. Is there a solution to the struggle? I want us to work productively towards becoming who we want to be in the classroom. We are wondering about our strengths and weaknesses. Some days all we see are the weaknesses, and I see you asking yourself, "When will this or when will I get better?
Eighth grade is a struggle for so many reasons. For one, you are worried about high school. You are inundated (overwhelmed) with questions and fears. Mostly, I think you're scared of failure. I want to encourage you to embrace failure. I didn't learn how to start doing that until I was a junior in high school facing getting my first F in AP Calc. I felt stupid. My intelligence was what I equated with success. And we know from studying forces and mathematical equations that what I set up was an inequality and an attempt at balancing something that could not be balanced.
Recently, I was with 30 of you (I teach 60) when I reminded you that you all are taking part in the Growth Mindset Institute because I am one of the NYC Public School teachers working with the Office of Leadership on helping us all grow our brains. I loved how excited you all were about that. You all clapped! Then, we read an article discussing the neuroplasticity of our brains.
During class, I challenged you all to think about your mindset being the foundation for your motivation. I am now challenging you to keep thinking about that. Keep thinking about what you can do on your own, with my help, with the help of friends, family, and classmates to grow your brain. The queen of Growth Mindset, Carol Dweck, said that students who turned intelligence into a judgment of their worth ran away from difficulty, error, and failure. This year I want to push you to think that in failure there are lessons. I want you to engage in the difficulty of being in middle school. I want you to confront the negative mindset that tells you challenges are bad. I want you to know that challenges provide opportunity, and that struggle is normal.
Beautiful people, guess what?! Teaching is hard. I am right now working on how to find effective strategies to help teach you, and make sure I have the effort necessary for an 8th grade classroom. Thank you for having patience with me this year, as I work with all of you to figure out what you need to be successful. Let's work on stretching beyond our comfort zones in this.
Ms. St. Jean
Ms. St. Jean
Native New Yorker teaching and living the middle school life, using this site to keep it 100. My students are the embodiment of joy.