Growth Mindset is Contagious!

After a really difficult couple of weeks, I have had the chance to reflect and have found that I lept into the growth mindset that we have been discussing for months now. Growth mindset is not a new phrase and I have seen the posters hanging in the classroom and heard the word “YET” added on after a perhaps negative comment – but I did not think that I necessarily possessed the growth mindset perspective before now.

Some back story – I work in a medium to small school district with only 5 of us under the Instructional umbrella at Central Administration. The job duties are outlined to be “anything under the sun” – no clear lines, no clear job description, take care of everything that our schools, students, teachers and administrators might need from testing to special programs to virtual learning to PEIMS coding to training and all other duties as assigned. I have been here for 20+ years, my Assistant Superintendent for 25 and my Director for 21 years so there hasn’t been much turnover – although I think we have stayed just above the curve in terms of educational trends and changes over the years. We are not as innovative as I would like, but we are also not afraid or ignorant to believe that it is absolutely imperative to keep learning and growing with the ever-changing demands and changes in education. That said – within 2 weeks – 4 of the 5 instructional leaders have either resigned or retired. Me – being the 5th – moved to a new position in May and have yet to train my replacement (who is second guessing her new job!).

In the past, I would have argued that growth mindset was a state of mind or the ability to make lemons out of lemonade. I have to work on my attitude and outlook every day to try and avoid the traps of fear, lack of control and just overall negativity in the education system. But I now feel like growth mindset is not just that state of mind but combined with particular circumstances and a “ripe” environment, it can be motivating, hopeful, powerful and persuasive. My first reaction to the news of the collapse of my beloved department was to check on my retirement status. That lasted about 2 minutes and then I was just angry. I took a couple of days to process what their departures might mean for me and the district and I knew I had a choice in the matter. It wasn’t until I started receiving text messages, Facebook chats, and voice mails from teachers and parents asking if I was leaving too. I could have jumped on the negativity bandwagon BUT something clicked in me…I have the opportunity to model and instill the idea that this type of change in personnel can truly be an opportunity to make positive change in instruction. I took every opportunity to blast out how excited I was about the upcoming school year. Instead of arguments from teachers, students and parents, I found that they too just needed someone to step up and remind them they also have a choice in how they look at the circumstances and how they can impact what happens next. I never, ever indicated it would be easy – I always told them that we can do hard things together. This is an opportunity to put our learners first. Make communication better. Bring outside perspectives to improve procedures and processes. We can finally make some really awesome instructional opportunities come to life.

So a growth mindset isn’t just a “Pollyanna” attitude IF it can be focused and applied to changes in the learning environment. I am just so stinking excited that I naturally went towards positivity and the growth mindset – as it wasn’t something that ever came easily in the past. I do believe that the last few months of discussion, debate and study of growth mindset in combination with the COVA principles in my Master’s Program has boosted my ability to look at challenges through a new lens. And more importantly, my new growth mindset IS contagious. I can attest to witnessing first hand how it is impacting my fellow peers that are staying put to fight the hard fight. We will encourage and support each other over the next few difficult months because we believe we can impact positive changes and withstand the inevitable challenges because of our growth mindset. I can’t just sit back and watch others though – I will step up and continue to fight for instructional improvement. I won’t just be throwing out the positive attitude but backing it up with actions as well. I have no idea what it will look like in August or who will be fighting along side of me. But I believe that the effort and difficulty will pay off somehow, someway and will impact others. 

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