My dear friend and grade level team member recently announced she had been offered and (unfortunately) accepted a job in a nearby district. This is a great move for her as she will be working closer to her home and be able to spend more time with her family. My initial response to this scenario (remember she is a dear friend and colleague—i.e.—my world is crashing down) was very fixed. I’m not proud of it, but my reaction with reference to my professional life was, “How in the world can my team provide better instruction to our incoming students next year when we have to get a new team member on board with our shared responsibility model?”
Get a grip. (AKA-Engage my dynamic mindset)
Start a blog.
Continue to collaborate.
In the 24-48 hours that have passed since I found out about this catastrophic change, my own thinking is swinging to be more dynamic. This shift in which I have decided to make lemonade from the lemons that were left on my whiteboard ledge is an important moment for me--not just because my husband is happy that I’m not moping around anymore. The mindset shift I noticed in myself is one that has practical implications in my day to day teaching. As Peter Johnston notes in Opening Minds, it is the mindset we utilize when we encounter struggle that most defines us. I want to share with my students the possibility and power of shifting our mindset.
Action Plan: Model authentic mindset shifts as they occur
To accomplish this action plan, I must first raise my first graders’ awareness that we all struggle. That’s right…even their teacher, principal, and parents struggle. Secondly, I must model that we have a choice as to which mindset we use when confronting a struggle (fixed or dynamic). Third, I want students to observe how to coach oneself in a mindset shift–the decision to make lemonade from those juicy lemons.
Since my first graders love hearing my personal stories, I might indulge them in my struggles as a new mom. My current list of struggles includes getting my three month old to take a bottle, getting spit up stains out of our rugs, and the list goes on. Accompanying these struggles are feelings of confusion, frustration, worry and/or disappointment which easily awaken my fixed mindset. It is in these moments of struggle that I have a choice. I can let the fixed mindset prevail and the said struggle becomes a permanent quality about me or I can awaken my dynamic mindset and grow. When I engage my dynamic mindset, I begin to access resources. Is there a term for speed dialing on the Internet? If so, I speed dial Google often. My mom always has knowledge to share about child rearing, too. It should be noted that it takes effort to access the resources and execute the ideas gained, but it is worthwhile effort. The pride I feel following the learning is a feeling I hope all of my students experience regularly.
Once I’ve shared the decision to engage my growth mindset in my personal life, I anticipate the concept will authentically surface in the school setting. For example, I can model my pursuit to write a circle story about how I poured way too much syrup on my plate and ended up having to eat more pancakes to mop up the syrup. Although I may originally feel my content lends itself to the circle story structure, if the story doesn’t develop with ease, frustration may soon set in.
Pause. (a few moments, a few days…whatever it takes).
Engage my growth mindset.
Try again by continuing to pursue telling my story through the circle story structure, choosing a different structure OR consciously noting the learning from the struggle.
Although struggle might be full of negative connotation, imagine what struggle can bring when you confront it with a dynamic perspective. I’m witnessing the fruit of my struggle today. Despite job changes, my dear friend and collaborator, Lisa, and I embark on a journey to blog about our practices as teachers. It is a way that we can continue our collaborative reflection.
I’m so glad I was reading Opening Minds when I encountered this struggle, so I could note my mindset shift and have the words to articulate it. As Johnston entitles his first chapter, “Changing words, changing worlds.”
P.S.- Thank you to Franki Sibberson, Cathy Mere, Karen Terlecky, Laura Komos , Jan Burkis and Kim Yaris and other bloggers that have helped enhance Lisa and my practices and see the possibilities of focusing our instruction through reflective blogging. This new journey of blogging is our lemonade.
P.S.S.-Thanks to Choice Literacy’s Big Fresh for helping us find the bloggers.