Dolph Petris | August 2019

Back to School with a Renewed Growth Mindset

A Paradoxical Dilemma

I don’t know about you, but going back to school after some time off is both exciting and exciting at the same time!  No, a mistake was not made. I didn’t use the typical positive and negative adjective to describe the bittersweet emotion for how I usually feel at the commencement of a new school year…on purpose.  But more on that later.

However many teachers might do just that, and non-educators would probably dread the idea of starting-up work again after a designated amount of time off.  Work, after all, is a four-letter word. That description alone can easily change the nouns’ connotation. But the “W” word need not be used in the same manner as an otherwise undesirable adjective slang.  More people than not in the working population generally do not like their job. That in itself is a pity.

Having experienced both ends of this sentiment spectrum from my colleagues, I typically withhold a desire to open up an allegorical Pandora’s Box that would result from a dive deeper into the human psyche.

So how does one navigate this paradoxical dilemma to help steer its path into one of adventure and excitement?  

Mindset

Everyone has an opinion.  Our mindset is the resulting product from everything we have experienced and everything we know.  We gather all of that knowledge, stir it up in our brains, and then form opinions and convictions to implement what then becomes our mindset.  Although an individual mindset is an organic state of personal being based on these experiences and knowledge, it is a rather static state in the grand scheme of things.  Why?, because Mindset is finite in the possibilities of what can be.

Mindset is a formed opinion that becomes a foundational schema to form individual personality traits.  There is no room for expansion. There is no room for growth.

Enter growth mindset.  By adding the word growth to the mindset state of being, we are allowing the possibility for what may exist beyond our current thoughts and ideas.

Growth Mindset

Everyone has an opinion, but not everyone has one that is allowed to be flexible.  Teachers know that having a growth mindset helps to cultivate endless possibilities for everything!  We work to instill this philosophy into our students, we build it into our teaching, and our desire is for students to own a mindset that is free of self-imposed limitations.

In this short video Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset, we are shown the comparisons of both frames of mind.  When a direct comparison is made, we can clearly see how one path can lead to possibility, while the other path can lead to a dead-end.  The point is simple, not only do we want to have a growth mindset for our personal and professional growth, we want our students to have it as well.

Renewed Growth Mindset

Everyone has an opinion, and some have allowed refinement of a flexible frame of mind. But here’s where the original problem resurfaces… We forget. Oops! We’re human!

The new school year is starting up again and many of us think “Ugh, I want more summer!  I’m just not ready to go back to work yet!” Unless you have retired, this is often the sentiment one would have when describing the inevitable reality of going back to school.

With a renewed growth mindset we make an active commitment to a fresh start.  Try saying this to yourself… “I don’t go to work, I go to school. I’m going back to school!”

Most of us became teachers because we like to learn.  We have a passion for learning, and our desire is to establish that same passion in our students so that they want to go to school and learn.  Our classroom will soon be filled with new faces, new challenges, and most of all new possibilities.  Wouldn’t it be quite awesome to be excited about the prospect of going back to school each and every day?

Every school day is basically the same, and every school day is vastly different.  There is a myriad of variables that teachers have no control over, and that’s okay! A renewed growth mindset will help to ease anxieties that inherently result from the ‘monkey-wrenches’ that seem to find their way into our daily plans.  No teacher writes in their Plan Book ‘insert monkey-wrench here’, but they happen regardless.

Your renewed growth mindset will be unconsciously communicated to your coworkers, and to your students!  How wonderful it would be if each teacher and each student had this renewed growth mindset each and every day!  Refreshing thought, yes… and attainable through conscious effort. Try it!

The Endless Possibilities

This creative lesson, written by Susan Riley, also has a downloadable lesson plan. It can be used as a great lead-in to the new school year.

This lesson allows students to think critically while making general observations.  The fun part is when proportions are changed, or tweaked, and the same observation develops a different student perception.  The Proportionate People lesson plan can be modified for any grade level and, you will want to carry this theme into other aspects of art and visual perception in the classroom.

Get your students to think from Day One.  Allow their thinking to be organically flexible based on what is being taught, what is being presented, or what is being discussed.  If your students already know what growth mindset is all about, then let them know that “We are renewing our growth mindset, together.  We are going to see the world through a different lens. We are going to allow the possibility of what can be, to be real!”

Now that you are energized with a renewed growth mindset, think about the endless possibilities of where it can go.  Exciting and exciting?  You bet! Where are you going to take it?  How will you use it with your students as you head on back to school?

About the Author

Dolph holds a Bachelors of Science, Product Design from Art Center College of Design and a Masters degree in Education. He has spent most of his teaching career as a 6th grade teacher in the elementary school setting with a focus on Gifted and Talented Education and is currently teaching a 5/6 combo in Fullerton, California. He and his wife have several four-legged kids: Bonnie and Clyde, Golden Retriever litter-mates, a street-rescued stray that looks like ‘Benji’ named Noel, Athena the cat, and two American Quarter horses.