Changing Mindsets

Unfortunately, the education system really doesn’t lend itself to the concept of learning from our mistakes with the strong emphasis on passing grades, highest GPA, assessments scales, etc. And professional learning – although not necessarily “graded” – has not traditionally encouraged making mistakes and learning from them either. I can’t even count how many times I have stood up in front of my peers and attempted to start a discussion with a question and all I hear is…nothing. Crickets. No one wants to be the first one to speak up and possibly be WRONG. Even with open-ended, no correct answer questions. Perhaps that is why I just dread that long, painful silence in the classrooms. It is difficult being uncomfortable! However, I am learning and finding reinforcements through our courses, the videos and the research that those moments of pause are not necessarily negative. It simply could be the culture of the school? Or perhaps I need to alter the learning environment to encourage collaboration and risk-taking – so participants understand that there are no wrong or stupid answers?! Even back 10 years ago in professional development, the technology would inevitably go wrong so this is not something new. But the panic that some of my fellow administrators felt – even before the session ever took place – was enough to make some of them absolutely terrified to present because they didn’t want to look bad or incompetent. Even back then, I knew that technology hiccups happen and they are just bumps in the road. We could all chuckle and recall times that the same thing happened in my participants’ classrooms too. What did they do when it happened to them? How many times did a student come to the rescue? It was just another lightbulb moment that reinforced 1. Mistakes happen, we are not perfect. It is good for our students to see us make them and witness how we recover from them too. And 2. Embrace the fact that our students are partners in the learning experience and allow them to step up and show us a thing or two!! 

This week’s assigned video on Innovation that Sticks: Risk Taking was my kind of video – I have been wanting answers to HOW the Ottawa Catholic School Board evolved into this amazing student-centered, digital learning ecosystem! They must have heard me because the video spelled out how it addressed the questions I am actually receiving from my administration right now. And I realize that the teachers and administrations from the video consistently commented that “the Board” built a new culture, “the Board” encouraged risk taking, “the Board” was not  forcing them to change, just evolving to best support their students. It sounds as if one (brave) administrator started this learning revolution in the Ottawa Catholic Schools and convinced the board that this new route would better serve the students. And then the board just ran with it, creating a culture that valued and encouraged risk-taking, collaboration and growth mindset. It causes me a bit of concern as I am moving my revolution from the other direction – grassroots from the bottom up so that it catches on naturally. My hope is that the school board might witness the change and then support policies and practices that continue to build it up. Often times it feels a little lonely and frustrating to constantly “fight the man” when you are working on change from the bottom up! I am focusing on the instructional leadership team, but I might want to expand my circle and include a few outside of it. The viewpoint they bring to the table as well as the potential impact they could have on the proposed changes to our learning environment might make a difference in the buy-in from the staff?? And promote and model collaboration and teamwork too.

 I googled to find out more about HOW the Ottawa Catholica School Board prioritized growth mindset and interestingly enough, their entire board plan outlines their 3 goals that explains the how – Be well, Be Community and Be Innovative. The Board strengthened organizational policies and procedures that promote positive mental health and wellbeing to directly reduce stress and anxiety for staff and students. GAME CHANGER – I never even considered how this would contribute to the overall campus climate and how valued each teacher and student would truly feel. I think adding pieces like this to my professional learning plan at the foundational level will be necessary to encourage enthusiasm and alleviate some of the fears of making mistakes, getting “in trouble” or just the fear of trying something new. Now I just need to pick which one or two open-minded board members might want to join in on the revolution!

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