Mindset and Change

I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset lately and how it impacts one’s reaction to change. While bike riding after school today, I was mindful of and admiring the current seasonal changes which led to my thinking about the changes a school year brings. There are the expected changes – a new class of kids to get to know, understand their learning needs, and build relationships with them as well as new parent partnerships to forge and nurture.

This year I’ve actively sought changes to make – Hello, Daily Five and #classroombookaday. Good-bye, homework time for Passion Projects. These changes necessitate other changes and questions. How do we tweak the schedule to build in more time for our Passion Project work so that we’re not relying on homework time for completion? What mini-lessons do we teach in Daily Five time and at what point in the year? How do we make time for daily picture book reading and what other curricular needs can those books support? And then there are changes that I didn’t seek but are thrust upon me – Hello, new teaching team and good-bye, former teaching partner who built our fourth grade model with me.

Through these changes I’ve noticed that my mindset makes all the difference in how I experience change. Looking for positives and opportunities within change allows me to develop into a better educator. And let’s be honest – it makes me a nicer coworker to be around! I remember learning when I had very small children that the gulf between one’s expectations and reality is directly related to the amount of frustration or anger felt about a tough situation. Bigger difference = more frustration. So what’s the solution? It’s not always easy to change reality, but it can be a catalyst for goal setting and longer-term shifts. What can more readily change are one’s expectations. Recognizing the parameters of whatever frustrating situation one is in is a helpful first step to working toward a successful resolution.

Why does this matter for my students? I think that being aware of my own responses to change and frustration and the interplay with my mindset allows me to better support students as they wrestle with changes and frustrations in their lives. I consider how I can be proactive with them and build skills.

This fall we’ve started out with a biography unit related to our first Passion Projects. Grace Hopper HHHFWe’ve read fantastic picture book biographies and seen how eminent people have responded to roadblocks … Albert Einstein being poorly regarded by his teachers … Grace Hopper being initially denied entrance to the Navy … Lonnie Johnson facing racism as he developed his passion for science and inventing. Over and over again, these biographies illustrate the importance of one’s mindset to achieve one’s dreams and goals through persistence.

In addition to providing and discussing models provided by famous people, I am conscious of my own language and how it affects student mindset. We talk about growth vs. fixed mindset, look for it in books, and celebrate it in one another. One of my favorite words is “yet” – I’m not great at this YET, but with practice I can do better. My attention is tuned to this as I read work by other educators. Recently I can across the idea of calling something one’s “best draft” instead of a “final draft.” Final draft implies that the work is complete and can be no better. Best draft communicates that it is one’s best work to date, but has room for improvement.

And don’t we all have room for improvement? My meandering thoughts while cycling tonight led me to feeling gratitude for my school. It’s a place where we are talking about the importance of making mistakes and learning from mistakes. We desire and try to create classroom environments where students feel safe enough to know that “(t)he only true failure can come if you quit.” (from Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beatty) That mindset permeates our campus and supports me as I both embrace, and wrestle with, change this fall.