Ernie Mendes PD Reflection

This past week, we had the chance to hear Ernie Mendes, “an organizational psychologist and specializes in the art and science of Emotional Intelligence” ( During the professional development session, we heard about various strategies that help us work with challenging students. Here are some of my main takeaways from the day:

  • Emotions drive our behavior and our motivation
  • I never have all the information
    • learner vs knower – there are both in every interaction
    • curiosity matters especially when we use it to become the learner and help us connect with the knower
  • When teaching self-regulation, be the person who has a relationship with the learners and help model what self-regulation look likes
    • Mendes modeled the example of having one place in the classroom where he would go to redirect himself which helped model calming strategies and routines that students can use when they too are feeling uneasy
  • Connect before you redirect by saying, “I can see that you are really ______. What would you like to do now?” Asking this validates how the learner is feeling and creates an opportunity for them to have a choice in resolving the conflict or discuss what it is that has been happening with the learner.
  • “If you can name it, tame it.” When we can name our emotions, that is the start of being able to also manage them and work to find that calm again.
  • The Total Truth Process is a way of writing down, recording using Voice Memos, or drawing out all of the emotions we feel while putting a cause to them and working to find a solution to moving forward. During this time, Mendes shared letters from students who had completed this activity and they explained each of the following emotions in those letters:
    1. Anger & Resentment
    2. Hurt
    3. Fear
    4. Remorse & Accountability
    5. Wants
    6. Compassion, Forgiveness, & Appreciation
  • STOP acronym for finding calm:
    • Stop
    • Take a slow, deep breath
    • Observe what is happening in you and around you
    • Proceed to do what is needed

At the beginning of the presentation, Mendes encouraged everyone to come up with a mission statement that describes what we do every day. I wonder how our mission statements have changed over the years and what they are now because of the strategies and resources people like Ernie Medes are sharing!

Self Care and Mindfulness PD – Reflection

Our final self care PD was focused on Mindfulness with Renée Lewis from UCSD who  joined us to give some suggestions on managing stress. One of the points that Renée made was about not being able to be completely free from stress but instead focusing on skills and strategies that will better help us manage our stress. The ideas and practices that we learned during our PD will not work for everyone every single time but they are strategies to try out and get into the habit of especially when times get stressful. Knowing yourself and having ideas for how to manage stress is important and actually utilizing those strategies and making them part of your regular self care routines is equally as important.


One of the first things that we did was watch a video from Happify which is a free* (*with a premium version available) program that offers different “tracks” that will support you with self care and mindfulness goals. You can create a free account by going to the Happify website and answering a few questions about your personal goals. Each track has activities that you can complete that match your personal goals. The tracks have videos and activities that you can complete at your own pace.

“Falling Awake”

During the meditation practices that Renée guided us through, she mentioned the idea of “falling awake.” This is where you are able to focus without your mind wandering. During this conversation, it was brought up that people who have a wandering mind are typically less happy (according to this Harvard Gazette article). This study resulted in the development of an app that can actually “track your happiness,” so it is appropriately titled, Track Your Happiness.

When we are falling awake, we are making sure that we are giving ourselves the ability and permission to be totally present on what is in front of us. By getting ourselves into the habit of being able to focus and limit mind wandering, we are more likely to increase our happiness in general. This can be done by getting into the mindset of “falling awake” and practicing mindfulness skills like meditation.

The researchers estimated that only 4.6 percent of a person’s happiness in a given moment was attributable to the specific activity he or she was doing, whereas a person’s mind-wandering status accounted for about 10.8 percent of his or her happiness.

Wandering Mind not a Happy Mind

Stress Reaction Cycle and Stress Reduction Practices

There are several ways that people deal with stress – maladaptive behaviors are strategies that are sometimes used which can be negative if done too often or without self control, these maladaptive behaviors often end up causing more stress. When we look at managing stress, we want strategies and skills that are sustainable and that can be done anywhere. The stress reaction cycle is having a thought, feeling a physical change and responding to the thought. The order of the stress reaction cycle (thought, feeling, reaction) can be different for everyone and will vary in intensity for everyone. It is how we manage this stress reaction cycle ourselves that can have an impact on our general health and wellness.

Instead of developing habitual maladaptive behaviors, we can practice:

  • Mediation where we  practice being aware and doing breathing exercises
  • Biofeedback where we learn how to control some of our body’s basic functions like heart rate and breathing
  • Stretch breaks where we take a few moments and get blood flowing or just loosen up tight areas

Please note that not all of these stress management strategies will be effective for you and there are many other ways of managing stress besides what was addressed in our PD and what has been suggested in this blog. If you know that something does not work for you, do not do it and work to find other safe and healthy ways of managing stress.

Screen Shot 2019-05-18 at 7.13.29 PM.png

Stress is about how we react to a situation. We can develop skills within ourselves that will help us better manage stress. When we are able to manage our stress, we are in general happier and ready to face more challenges. Please share what works for you when managing stress; it might not work for everyone but it might be something that others have not yet considered!


Carrying the Cognitive Load

During our most recent PD, I was sitting with a group of teachers and the conversation was focused on what it means to “carry the cognitive load.” What does this look like for our students? How are we going beyond just the generic DOK questions to really provide opportunities for students to think critically and creatively on their own? How powerful would it be if we used the supports like sentence frames to actually help students make real world connections during times when they do not have those supports available? How are we, as a school, moving towards this goal?

After reflecting as a whole staff about our guided visit data, a lot of the conversations that I heard were focused on how we get our students to explain their thinking. Everyone does this just a little bit differently in their classrooms. How is it that we get students to go beyond just explaining a procedure to actually explain the reason why the procedure they are doing works?

The great thing about this concept, metacognition, thinking about thinking, is that it will build on itself, so it not necessarily grade level specific, but it is more focused on the thought process behind the skills being taught. This means that in kindergarten through eighth grade, if we can get students in the habit of going beyond just saying, ” I am doing ___” to really say “If I ____, ____ will happen because ____,” their thought process will develop and grow as the content gets more rigorous.

DOK Questions

As I was researching for this post, I saw a lot of videos about metacognition and ways to verbalize thinking. A majority of those videos referred back to the DOK Question Stems that a lot of our teachers have been using:

Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 5.52.21 AM.pngI started thinking about a lot of questions…What does it look like when students explain their thinking? How do we get beyond an explanation of a procedure? How powerful would it be if the students explained the reason behind the procedure?

I do not have the answers to all of these questions, instead, I see this as more of a collaborative process where we all work together to help our students get into a thinking routine where it is an automatic reaction to dive in deep with their verbal explanations about thinking. This is going to mean a huge shift in mindset for our learners, getting them to really go beyond explaining the process or procedure to give an in-depth explanation of their thoughts causing the process to work.

Think Time

Resource Video (from an upper grade class): Independent and Group Work with Metacognition 

  • Grade: All grade levels
  • Time: Done throughout the lesson
  • Purpose: Giving time to think

Do our students understand the difference between explaining what they are doing and explaining what they are thinking? Providing time to think before collaborative conversations can help our students get their thoughts in line so that they are prepared to say more than the steps they took to complete a task. This is metacognition, we are getting our students to think about their thinking.

When we discuss metacognition, thinking about thinking, we are supporting our learners to go beyond just explaining what they did. This video from Edutopia discusses the process of metacognition:

Students ask 7 questions that gradually get more in depth to the point where they are explaining more than just the procedure:

  • What should I do first?
  • Is anything confusing me?
  • Can I explain what I have learned?
  • Should I ask for extra help?
  • Why did I get this answer? (original video, says “Why did I get this answer wrong, but that is not applicable in all situations)
  • Can I apply this in different contexts?
  • How can I do better next time?

The third question, “Can I explain what I have learned,” is where a lot of learners will go back to explaining the procedure to complete something. Instead of going over steps, it is much more relevant if students explain why they are choosing those steps. This is where the learning is really internalized and becomes routine. When students make it a routine, they are more likely to recognize experiences and times outside of school when the learning is applicable.

Collaborative Thought

Resource Video (from a grade primary class): Student Collaborative Thought

  • Grades: All grade levels
  • Time: Beginning of a lesson
  • Purpose: Pictures that spark curiosity about a topic

During this strategy, students work in groups to analyze a picture. They look at the pictures about a topic. These inquiry groups encourage curiosity centered around a specific topic. Students work to ask and answer their own questions and the questions of others as they continue their learning. Starting a unit of study with this strategy helps teachers understanding more about the student’s prior knowledge and help them develop new knowledge that is more than just completing a procedural task.

Thinking Logs

Resource Video (from a dual language fifth grade class): Thinking Logs

  • Grades: All grade levels
  • Time: Throughout a lesson
  • Purpose: Recording thoughts in writing (for primary, could be done as video recording where they explain in words instead of writing)

During this strategy, students are encouraged to tell more than just the process because they are showing the process through the product of their work. Students record wonderings, thoughts, questions and reflections. At the end of the lesson, they explain what they learned and how they know they have learned this concept or skill.

I would love for our entire staff to start sharing some of their own strategies and ideas for incorporating ways for students to go beyond explaining what steps they took to complete a task. This could be done during collaboration or as a collective whole by sharing to our Twitter page using #FeasterLearns.

A lot of this blog post focuses on metacognition and bridging the gap between thinking about the process and explaining the learning. John Spencer wrote a great blog post about the metacognitive process – Five Ways to Boost Metacognition in the Classroom -it is also a podcast!!



To begin the quarter, we started off with our professional development meeting focusing on the #worldofwork. During this session, we met at the Sweetwater Treatment Facility and learned about alternative professions that our students could gain skills for starting today that relate to blue energy. During our time there, we heard from the Innovation Station’s Michael Bruder as well as several other notable speakers who explained more about the percentage of job growth in this area that they foresee in the near future. This PD connected to what we are doing in our Mindlabs classes with the RIASEC themes and also gave some great ideas for creative and collaborative projects that will help connect your STEM, STEAM and VAPA lessons to the RIASEC themes of – realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional.



Similar to when we visited the San Diego Electrical Training Center, we had learned about ways to connect our classroom lessons to skills that are required for careers that do not necessarily require a four-year college degree. These skills and curricular connections can help students adjust their mindset so that they seek out careers that build on their existing interests and strengths. By giving our learners time to explore additional opportunities, we are also enabling them to recognize qualities within themselves that they may not necessarily have noticed without our support or guided lessons.

Applying these themes is something that can be done whenever you give group assignments and challenges. You may have various tasks that require your students to apply characteristics that help them successfully demonstrate their ability to be realistic, artistic, social, enterprising and/or conventional. By providing these opportunities and pointing out times throughout the day when these themes can be applied, we are helping our students be more aware of developing these skills.

Getting our students to start thinking about how they are demonstrating these skills can be done by first conversing with them about each different theme and helping them recognize the characteristics they have within themselves that may demonstrate these themes.



Often times, learners have misconceptions about various professions. This was addressed and elaborated on when the speakers shared some conversations with their students about gender stereotypes in various career paths. We can clear these misconceptions up starting right away in kindergarten. By getting students to discuss different careers, having them draw pictures of people who may hold those careers and by having guest speakers come in or participate in FaceTime video conferences, we can help our learners see that their career choices are limitless as long as they make a goal and stay focused on achieving that goal.

Sample Lessons

During our time at the Sweetwater Treatment Facility, each grade level participated in lessons that reflected the RIASEC themes.

Realistic (click the link for the video)

  • Objective: Build a circuit that can be used to adjust the sound level of a device
  • Skills Gained: Students are using the problem-solving skills they have learned to follow multiple step instructions from a technical manual that will eventually help them accomplish the task
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “realistic” theme because it gives the learners an opportunity to accomplish a task that is relevant to their science and informational reading as well as their use of technology outside of the classroom. It also requires to learner to use real life skills and applicable pre-existing knowledge.



  • Objective: Engineer a wind farm that will minimize the use of fossil fuels in your community
  • Skills Gained: Students analyze the factors impacting their surrounding area to construct a wind farm, they must understand the basics of the wind patterns in their area and strategize to make sure that they use the correct size blades and design their windmills so they face the correct direction
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “investigative” theme because it requires students to try several different designs and models before committing to one final product. The students need to research and apply thier knowledge in science in order to complete this challenge successfully.



  • Objective: Design an energy efficient school that uses sustainable energy
  • Skills Gained: Students being to research and consider alternative energy solutions that they may not have considered before. As they research, they are learning how to apply their knowledge in a new way by designing a school or structure that relies upon green and/or blue energy
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “artistic” theme because it requires learners to use their knowledge to design a prototype or product that will help reach their objective. The students can use photographs, movies, paintings and drawings to successfully apply their art skills to complete this challenge.



  • Objective: Plan a community event to promote your school’s robotics team
  • Skills Gained: Students must understand what logistics go into planning an event and they must consider potential problems like space, numbers of attendees, strategies for promoting the event, etc.
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “social” theme because it requires learners to organize and plan an event that could potentially be held at their school. These students needs to connect experts in different areas in order to plan a successful event.



  • Objective: Write a sales ad for solar energy
  • Skills Gained: Students learn about how to market their product and develop entrepreneurial skills by considering who their target audience is and by recognizing their interests and marketing towards each person as an individual by considering their particular needs
  • RIASEC Connection. This activity is an example of the “enterprising” theme because it requires learners to take a product and market it to a target audience. These students need to be energetic and ambitious in order to create a successful advertisement.



  • Objective: Complete an “I Have Who Has” round to learn technical definitions and respond to specific scenarios.
  • Skills Gained: Students learn about the basics of a planned topic by reviewing technical terms and answering each other’s questions
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “conventional” theme because it requires each learner to both speak and listen to their fellow team members in order to complete the objective while maintaining order and organization of the activity. These students need to show their organization skills and extreme focus in order to make the activity work.


I encourage you to check out these lessons and to reflect on how you are already applying these themes in your classroom!

Importance of Time to Reflect

Reflection time is probably the most omitted part of our lessons due to time constraints and the desire to fit in as much as possible to our academic day. However, time to reflect can pose as a great way to better understand what your students are taking away from the day’s lessons. I am not saying that we should throw everything else out and just have students reflect, but I am saying that this can be used as a way to better understand what misconceptions still exist and help you form your small groups for the next time you meet or bring up the topics discussed. This can be done in the form of a closing circle, an exit ticket, or even a small group collaborative conversation.

“Reflection is a crucial part of the work that we do, and without looking back, it is almost impossible to move forward.”

George Couros

The Principal of Change


Addressing the RIASEC themes is not simply one more thing, instead, it is a way to get our learners to converse about the skills they are developing that could help them grow and learn about potential future careers. The lessons provided (as seen above) can be used to enhance your science, math and reading curriculum while helping students explore their strengths and better understanding the World of Work. Please share your thoughts on applying the RIASEC themes to you class!