Tuesday, October 20, 2015

3 Keys to Enabling Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset means you believe abilities can be developed if you work hard and are persistent. An individual may simultaneously demonstrate a growth mindset and fixed mindset. You may have a growth mindset in your approach to work and not fitness, for example. See What is Mindset to gain better understanding and learn how Mindset can be taught. Individuals vary in their demonstration of growth mindset in different areas and at different times.

Beyond teaching growth mindset- three states to enable it.

Security is a Key to Learning, Growth, and Happiness

We had a wonderful thing in our teaching contract, the sabbatical, which allowed me to take a break from teaching 5th graders to get better at teaching 5th graders; knowing I would have a teaching position when my coursework was complete was reassuring. My family and my health contributed further to my sense of security; stability allowed me to actively pursue achievement and success (completing coursework/all but dissertation in my year off -showed my growth mindset to others).

Feeling safe (as well as having physiological needs met) enables our minds to concentrate and think at higher levels. The current media blitz on education has disrupted the feeling of security for many growth minded teachers, leaving them overburdened as they work to reconcile current and next practices while trying to meet ever-changing assessment and standards demands. In this state mindset appears fixed as teachers feel they must defend all, even the best, aspects of their current practice.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Strength is key to overcoming challenges and pursuing goals

Intellectual, emotional, and physical fitness are all areas of strength that must be developed so that they are available for facing challenges. This trifecta leads to good overall health, allowing individuals to work and play hard with limited ill effects. Intellectual strength is the stock and trade of teachers -I think there is a vow to lifelong learning; more than half of public school teachers have Master's degrees or higher (NCES Fast Facts). I am a reader, this is a definitive strength for many teachers, and how I get most of my information. Physical fitness is variable among teachers- #teacherrunner and noting athletic interests along with educational expertise is a Twitter thing; however having less than 30 minutes most days to forage, prepare, and consume lunch does not encourage the best choices. Illness runs rampant in the close proximity environment of schools; when teachers or students miss school, they spend significant energy getting and staying healthy, catching up with work, and re-establishing or maintaining relationships. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is essential for teachers, and must be strengthened. Self -awareness, self -management, social awareness, and relationship management are aspects of EQ (for more information go to helpguide.org ) and contribute to teacher effectiveness working with students, families, peers, and other educational stakeholders.

Being strong is a state which allows us to overcome set-backs. When a teacher has neglected any of his/her health needs, he/she will be hard-pressed to demonstrate growth mindset. Physical health provides energy and strength to meet the demands of a classroom full of learners in varying states of engagement. Increasing EQ provides tools for strengthening students' social and emotional skills so they may capitalize on learning opportunities. Awareness and strengthening EQ will put the stress the evaluative environment has created in proper perspective and provide strategies for calming self and environment, for educators and learners.

Making connections is key to to developing understanding that transcends everyday learning

Revisiting security and safety, we spent significant time focusing on classroom routines as a building and I found myself at odds with the idea; I have always used a more responsive approach-routines feel too authoritarian to me. I am very persistent-so the cognitive dissonance created by this routines idea kept running in my head. I do the FANS 24 Hour race every year, walking 50 miles or more. My health has always seemed good, however I was carrying a lot of extra weight, especially on those stamina-testing days when I would do a race with little training. I find I am a little compulsive, which may be why I generally avoid routines-there is no way out! However, after much internal debate, the idea that productive routines would potentially make me more physically fit won out and I began to have the same breakfast and lunch every day-in an attempt to mind my diet-something I had never attempted and walk 2 miles per day, minimum. Now I throw in a run at least a couple times per week and find any time on my feet is great for reflecting on my day, problem solving, and learning by taking time to make connections between existing ideas and new experiences. Connections create new growth intellectually and emotionally, especially when perspective-taking.

My Trifecta is Physical, Intellectual, and Emotional fitness-what is yours?

I have always relied on being a strong reader to increase my intellect; reading is my work and my go-to whenever I am stumped. Reading puts tools in my box that I use persistently in my life as I work toward Maslow's Self-Actualization level ;) As it turns out, regular physical exercise contributes to strengthening both cognitive and emotional intelligence. When I fail to meet expectations (my own or those of others), I reflect on things learned, learn some more, repair, and continue to grow.

I am sure my approach, with growth in mind, is not always visible to others. The growth mindset of others may not be visible, yet still may be present, hidden because it is internal or possibly hindered by insecurity or stress.

How does one show a growth mindset?


  1. I love reading about the growth mindset and I also try to continue to grow in those areas you mentioned: physical, emotional and intellectual. I fall short on the emotional, I think in part to my job. Being a coach takes its toll on me. I am always trying to make sure I keep everyone else happy, that my emotional being sometimes falters. However, my intellectual and physical growth keep some of that in balance. Thankful for my #runteacherrun group and my #21dayfix group, my physical goals are always changing and I always find time to learn more to grow my intellect.

    1. Thank you for your comments-I must check out #runteacherrun!
      I appreciate your struggle with the pressures of being a coach. It is both exhausting and exhilarating! You may find your EQ is stronger than you think-check out helpguide.org to find ways to work those emotional intelligence muscles.