In preparation for this week’s blog post, I found myself reflecting back on a previous blog post I’d written called “Moving Forward with Mindset“. This blog post, written at the end of my first graduate class, summarized both my experiences with and expectations for using mindset in my classroom and my life. It provided a direct link to my Growth Mindset Plan, which provided a more detailed account of my understanding of the growth mindset and its meaning in my life. As I reread the post, I couldn’t help but smile at my bold assertion that mindset would “continue to shape my approach to instruction and beliefs about learning.”
In so many ways, this has assertion has become my reality. Not only are the classes we are taking helping me to use my mistakes as a starting point for more intensive, interactive, and authentic learning, but the concept of growth mindset has reshaped my whole approach to helping the learners in my classroom. However, there are some areas where I have found that my original thoughts have evolved. In my original plan, I noted that the third stage of my plan involved using a “growth mindset” voice. By this, I meant that we should learn to speak in growth-mindset terms to further help the students learn to develop their growth-mindset voice. However, I’ve since come to realize that doing this is simply not enough. The rhetoric is easy enough to master, but it does not guarantee that your students are going to truly act in a manner that shows they embrace and practice a growth mindset. While I still believe that it is important for teachers to model growth-mindset feedback for the students, I believe they also need to model the growth mindset through their actions.
This also leads me to another area where my original Growth Mindset plan has shifted. My fourth step was entitled “A Call to Act!”. In this section, I spoke about the importance of the notion that “actions speak louder than words”. As I’ve continued on my learning journey, I think this has only become more important in my mind. Above all, I think that as educators, we must model grit for our students. If we truly want our students to embrace a growth mindset, grit is essential. We need to model that giving up is not an option and challenges are designed to be difficult to overcome. We need to show students that no matter what obstacles are faced, learning is a part of every failure. Finally, we need to show our learners that true grit is essential to success.
This year, as I work to implement my plan for an “Innovation Station” at my school, having a growth mindset is going to be monumentally important. Not only do I find myself in a brand new teaching role, but I’m creating a brand new curriculum. I need to remember how much trial and error are going to help me learn, and I need to remember to be kind to myself along the process.
I truly feel that this change is the opportunity of a lifetime. It has allowed me truly focus on my learning philosophy. I am working hard to create a significant learning environment that provides my students with opportunities for choice and voice. Through hands-on activities, they are making sense of the world around them and solving problems that are relevant to their own lives. My learning environment is designed to create personalized learning experiences that allow my students to take control of their education through blended learning and our school makerspace.
As I’ve focused on learning, I’ve found myself thinking deeply about what I truly want my learners to be able to do. By establishing my learning outcomes first, I have been able to determine authentic assessments and learning activities that truly showcase student ability. By working backward and using the “Understanding By Design” template, I feel confident that I’m planning units that will help my students grow in a meaningful way.
I’m looking forward to putting the concepts and ideas I’ve learned in this course together to make my Innovation plan come to life. It is my hope that by being transparent with my school about this journey, others will be inspired to start their own. In the immortal words of my favorite New Jersey resident, Bruce Springsteen, “You can’t start a fire without a spark.”