Category Archives: Empowerment

Getting Started with Teacher Inquiry

I am proud to say that I have officially finished 9 of my 10 Masters courses (insert applause here). It has been a busy 12 months! My program really has changed me as a teacher – my planning, instruction, and how I regard assessment.

One course that I took a couple of months ago was “Action Research”. Before beginning the course, I was shaking in my boots. I envisioned research methods from my undergrad degree – reliability and validity, controlling variables and looking for statistically significant results…Shudder… I remember thinking, “It’s almost the end of the school year. I DO NOT have time to conduct RESEARCH!” As it turns out, I learned in the first week that action research has many other names, including “teacher inquiry”, and it was nothing like what I had pictured. I have come to prefer the term “teacher inquiry” to “action research”. I find it less intimidating – if that makes any sense! But, they do refer to the same process.

So, why have I chosen to share with you, my first venture into teacher inquiry? Well, as a requirement of my program, I had to conduct a teacher inquiry of my own. One of the major elements upon the completion of a teacher inquiry is to share what happened – the results, what I learned, and what it all means. So, as part of the “sharing” component I decided to share here on my blog with all of you. It’s too much to share in one post, so you can expect a few upcoming posts highlighting the whole process.

teacher inquiryWhat you need to understand, if you are new to teacher inquiry, is that it is a simple, yet complex process. Time-consuming, yet rich in professional development opportunities. The entire process begins with what is called a “wondering”. This is a question that you wish you had the answer to. It may be something that you think about on the drive home, or discuss with your spouse or colleagues, or something that rolls around in your mind as you try to sleep. As educators, we all have wonderings, of sorts….How can I help So-and-So be more organized? What can I do to increase student engagement? What can I do to improve achievement with this unit? How can I incorporate more technology into my course? What can I do to make So-And-So stop blurting out in class? How can I get all of my students to actually LEARN their times tables this year? These were all potential wonderings for me as I started the process of teacher inquiry. I encourage you to think about a question, a wondering, that you would like help with. It should be something that would improve life in your classroom and in return, increase student achievement – which is what it’s all about – helping kids learn and have success. 


I’m including a link to our course text, in case teacher inquiry sounds like something that you would like to explore this school year. In my opinion, the book was extremely helpful and user-friendly:

The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research: Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Through Practitioner Inquiry


So, as I leave you to reflect on your own personal wondering, know that teacher inquiry is simply a structured method to help you find the answer(s) to that question. It is empowering, and helps teachers to find the answers to their own questions. So, what’s your wondering?


Canadian teacher middle school blog, lessons from the middle, teacher author krystal mills photo

Do You Teach Your Students About Having a Fixed Vs Growth Mindset?

In one of the courses that I am taking for my Master’s of Education, I came across a topic that really struck a chord with me. I am taking two courses at the moment ( my March “Break” has been pivotal in maintaining my sanity with this 2 courses at once, business). In my Differentiated Instruction course, the idea of a “Fixed Mindset” versus a “Growth Mindset” came up. To put it simply, some people (kids included) believe that we are born with a certain amount of intelligence – it’s “fixed”. In comparison, hose with a “Growth Mindset” understand that putting in effort to learn new things expands our minds, and that effort is what makes us successful and “smarter”.

I don’t know about you, but I have certain students, who constantly question themselves and do not give their full effort! Like, ever! Oh wait, unless it’s a really simple task. It is extremely frustrating, as the teacher, to sit back and see that if s/he just TRIED they would achieve the success that they wish for. What I have learned is that people with a “fixed mindset” see effort and “having to try” as threatening to their intelligence. This exertion of effort actually makes them feel stupid because they feel like they should already know the material. They think that others just “get it” while they do not. Kids with a “fixed mindset” don’t realize that other students are actually working harder than they are (exerting effort to do well) and it is the effort of these other students that causes them to gain more academic success, not intelligence that they were born with.

I teach grade 7 and I think that junior high students could really benefit from being informed about “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. Recognizing the type of mindset that they have and looking at how they can make simple changes to actually “grow their brains” and make themselves smarter? I would have to think that idea would be appealing to kids!

I found an interactive quiz to share with your kiddos if this is something that you’re interested in. Below the quiz are two videos – a Ted Talk by Carol Dweck who has researched this phenomenon, and a second video about how the brain works that would be suitable for middle school and up. I also found another quick video comparing “fixed” and “growth” mindset.

Carol Dweck’s book is titled, “Mindset” if this is a topic that interests you.

I also dug around and found “Mindsets in the Classroom” which I am adding to my Amazon wishlist. It looks fantastic and very user-friendly!


I think that the main thing that I got from the articles that I have read for my MSED on mindset, is that kids need to know that they have the power to “make themselves smarter”. Their effort is what matters – they haven’t been born with a certain amount of intelligence. Exerting effort to learn something new makes the neurons in their brain fire and can actually cause their brain to grow (whereby making them smarter than if they hadn’t exerted effort). Even sharing or reminding kids of that fact, and pulling the topic in when kids with “fixed mindsets” balk at challenges would be helpful with motivating and inspiring all kids to achieve.

I am excited to get back to class and share some of the things I have learned about mindset with my kiddos (the ones with clearly “fixed mindsets” especially). I would love to hear your opinions on this topic! Are you familiar with Dweck’s work? I have spoken to my kids on the topic of effort, but never in the terms of mindset and intelligence and I can’t wait to hear what they think!

Virtual Field Trip to Africa

Stuck on an Escalator – Encouraging your students to TRY!

Just found this video – (it’s not new, I saw it a while back) and I thought I’d share. Too funny and lots of applications! I’m going to show it to my math students in reference to tackling challenging problems – like word problems. They have to try, they have to take a step…and then another and they’ll get where they’re going. If they don’t try, it’s like they’re allowing themselves to remain stuck on the escalator!

jamberry nails giveaway

WE WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you for all of your positive energy and good vibes! Very excited to announce that we were the GRAND PRIZE winners in the Aviva Community Fund Competition! Souris Consolidated School was awarded a cheque today for $135 000 to pay for our inclusive playground. It just goes to show that when parents, teachers, students and entire communities work together, amazing things can happen. Mountains can be moved. What may seem impossible, becomes a reality.

Thanks again, everyone! What an awesome, emotional and simply unforgettable day!


aviva cheque 2


Souris: A Playground for All (coverage about us begins at 20:50

Krystal Mills, Lessons From The Mille, Teacher Blog







Getting Students to Understand That Their Power Lies With Them

Friday again already! I’m super excited, actually. It’s the school’s Spring Carnival tonight and last year it was just awesome AND we raised $6000! More on that in a future post… 

I just wanted to bring some closure to my last post. The sessions by the Light Up Your World presenters were very well done. The vast majority of the students appreciated the message and many said that they came to see things differently than they had before. There was one session in particular where some students were in tears when they had to think about negative things that had been said to them at some point – things that are simply not true about them. They had to write their “false label” on to a sticky and paste it onto a student volunteer and say those words to them. It made some students quite emotional to call their classmate “fag”, “slut”, “waste of space”, “fat”, “stupid”…the list goes on and on. The students who volunteered to receive these false labels were very vocal in how it made them feel and the pain that they could see in their classmates’ eyes when they had to put that label (and speak it) on to them. It was moving to watch and to be a part of. 

you cant have a positive life

As always, the presentation did fall on some deaf ears. Some students who I was hoping would get more out of it, said that it was boring and that they didn’t want to go back for the other sessions. Can’t win ’em all! All that I can hope, is that they were listening and watching (even when they appeared not to be) and that they did get something out of, they just didn’t want to admit it.

I had my students respond to the workshops in a post on their blogs as well, and it was interesting to read the different points of view. I was glad to see that almost everyone came up with something positive to say about the presentations, even if they did not enjoy them. I feel that it shows maturity on their part.

Our power does lie with us, and I’m still trying to figure out how to get one student in particular to “get it”. People respond to what you do. If you act differently, more positively – people will respond to you more positively. It’s a simple concept to me, of course, but I’m still looking for new and interesting ways for my students to really OWN their behavior and the consequences (positive and negative) that come from their behavior. 

So….if you have any ideas…I’m all ears! 

bullying video

Light Up Your World

The choices we make affect what happens in our lives and can impact who we become. You know that. I know that. But how, oh how, can we get our pre-teens and teens to truly understand that? Many of them make poor choices that simply sabotage everything that they really want, and they act as though they’re a victim of circumstance. Some cry the “poor me’s” or are trapped in an endless cycle of learned helplessness and it drives me crazy! I can try to help them, but there comes a point where they need to help themselves first.

Of course, certain things ARE out of their control – that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the choices within only their control, that they are making within the run of a regular school day; choices that will or will not help them reach their overall goals.

So, why am I randomly talking about choices? Well, I’m sitting here doing my planning and I am SO hopeful for this week. We have been lucky enough to be one of four schools in PEI who will be a part of the Light Up Your World program. Presenters will be coming to our school and, in a workshop type of atmosphere, talk about choices and decisions and how we can make a difference in this world. (There’s more to it than that – but that’s the main idea!)

We have 2 grade seven classes and both will be involved with these workshops Monday – Wednesday, for hour and a half chunks each day. (It certainly makes planning for this week of classes a little lighter!) What I am hoping, though, is that this program will REALLY resonate with each student, but a couple in particular. I’m excited that we were chosen as a school to be a part of this and I’m even more excited to see how the students will react to the presenters and the overall message. I’ll be sure to let you know how it all plays out!

Here’s the link to the program, if you’re interested in checking it out: Light Up Your World



I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday! It’s a beautiful day here in PEI. I think maybe we’ll be heading to the pool for a swim and then some time outside for sure! Make the most of the rest of your weekend!

 light up your world