So much has been written recently about instilling the growth mindset into students. But what about the teachers? We are the role-models and we inspire our learners. If we want to foster the growth mindset, we have to be ready and confident when guiding our learners. We should practise what we preach, shouldn’t we?
Are you a teacher with the growth mindset? This is what to do to grow:
- Admit your mistakes. We show our students that mistakes are not to be afraid of. Instead of looking at the mistakes as “enemies”, we should analyse them and perceive them as opportunities to improve. You students mirror you, so show them that you learn from your mistakes too.
- Don’t say you are bad at something or that you cannot do something. Don’t say or think negatively about yourself. If other teachers are better at something – learn from them, observe them. At the same time, challenge yourself, try new approaches and ideas, methods, resources, classroom layouts. Talk about solutions, not problems.
- Be curious. Learn from students and your colleagues. Be a student yourself. Ask questions. Learn as you go. When you teach a lesson and you have a new brilliant idea, stop and write it down. Cooperate, network and share. Dedicate some time towards CPD.
- Reflect, question yourself, approach the matters from various points of view. This helps you develop as a person and as a professional. Set new goals based on the previous achievements or failures (yes, they happen to us, too!). Our journey never ends as there is always room for improvement. Every lesson teaches us something, even if not delivered exactly as planned. Instead of saying “that lesson was horrible”, reflect on it and ask yourself these questions: What is good? What is not working and why? What can be changed next time and why? What am I missing? Use naturally emerging opportunities when teaching. Be flexible and think outside the box. Amend as you go and remember that every group is diverse, each lesson is different and there is no fixed lesson plan that always works. The good thing is that you can change it at any point. It always gets better next time.
- Be inclusive. Bring equality and equity into your classroom, and at the same time celebrate diversity. Show unique characteristics, links, connections and be fair.
- Don’t give up on a weak student (btw, is it appropriate to say that a student is weak?). Look for opportunities to support the learners in every lesson. Try a different task or approach, try to motivate the students, differentiate activities and show you believe they can achieve. Brock and Hundley advise us to meet students’ needs by giving each student what they need to progress and to “strive to create an environment of equity in your classroom”, try to find out what resources, tools, support and opportunities will your students benefit from. Observe, assess and ask, to be able to differentiate the content, the process or the product. We usually have a lot of students in each class, and, unfortunately, not much time to support them. Try to plan ahead and consider tools that can be given in order to help. Collaboration with the fellow teachers helps too.
- Don’t hand information to students on a silver platter, or in other words, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” ( I. Thackeray Ritchie). Let students explore, enquire, try, do and find what they are looking for. Don’t give out ready answers or solutions, but suggest tools, encourage process and effort instead.
- Be flexible with assessment. Brock and Hundley recommend using assessment methods that feed the growth mindset. Give chances by letting the students re-visit the task and improve the quality of their work. “Teachers can and should incorporate growth mindset in both formative and summative assessments.” Amending the mark schemes (focusing on areas to be addressed rather than on numerical outcomes) as well as using relevant phrases for giving praise always help. Always appreciate students’ time and effort.
- Offer and ask for feedback on the regular basis. Link the feedback to the SMART goals and learning processes. Be responsive, praise initiative and creativity. “Offer strategies for overcoming obstacles, failures and setbacks”. Remember that the feedback from your students is your ally – ask for it, listen to it, accept it and open to changes.
- Don’t compare or label your students. Look at each student as a unique individual that needs your tailor-made support and their own path for learning.
- Take care of the students who do well. Thinking that they don’t need your attention may affect their motivation and drive. Challenge them and encourage further progress.
- Embrace the digital revolution by changing your approach to education. Brock and Hundley remind us that in the past “the amount of knowledge” was limited to the library only. “Now, students have access to the entirety of human knowledge at their fingertips, so the what of learning is far less important than the why or how.” Encourage project-based learning to help students shift from being “knowledgeable” to “knowledge-able” and provide them with authentic learning opportunities. Information is available there and then, we should take the students to the next level, where they process, analyse and reflect on the information given. Don’t restrict using the mobile phones in class, let students access information, as we usually do when we want to learn something new. Our classroom should reflect the outside world as much as possible. It’s all part of the learning process and encouraging self- and formative assessment, all to improve. Of course introduce some rules so the students understand how, when and for what purposes the mobile phones should be used.
- Mind your language – Brock and Hundley see the common saying, “Practice makes perfect”, as the one expecting perfection. As we all know, not every student can achieve that instantly. I would take if further and ask: Is perfectionism a quality? Do we always want to be perfect? Only in a healthy and balanced manner. What if we changed the saying to “Practice makes better”? This way, we will show our students that we don’t expect perfection; that we want to see their progress and them achieving their next goal. This is our journey together and we want to move forward. We need to remember to praise the effort, not the person, to sustain our students’ growth mindset; that encourages actions. It is interesting how some teachers use the word “yet”. By adding the word to the feedback-related statement (eg. When speaking, you don’t use Past Simple forms, yet.), they show and that the work is still in progress and show a learner that it is still possible to achieve, if more time given.
- Know your students, no, you don’t need to know everything about them, but some information (eg. in relation to their problems or personal life) can help you establish better ways of support and engagement, as well as build strong relationships. See the students as human beings with problems and offer support. Refer to the external agencies if necessary, this will also aid their learning and progress.
- Be mindful, listen, observe and be present. Appreciate the opportunities given and learn from previous experiences. You will understand your students and the reasons behind their actions better.
- Encourage an “open dialogue” classroom. Encourage communication and mutual respect. Be discreet when necessary.
- Apply emotional intelligence and be authentic. Show that you have a sense of humour. Show your passion to teaching. Be aware of how influential your role is: the atmosphere you create, the body language you present, the language you use, the content you introduce, the feedback you give – all these are meaningful and influence your learners. Show understanding. Lead by example. Be a role model. Motivate. Believe in all your students, they feel that.
- Encourage your students to learn outside the classroom, eg. show them how to learn when playing with their children, accessing local services or speaking the target language/practising with their friends.
- Motivate yourself by visualising your achievements in the future. Self-asses and don’t forget about the areas where you still have a fixed mindset – those may need to be looked at. Just be aware of that ;-).
- Plan, prepare and have a backup plan in place, as “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” (B. Franklin).
- See the big picture as well as how the aims and objectives of your job fit in. We are all parts of a bigger system and our contributions are crucial to the team’s achievements. Ask questions when trying to understand any changes affecting you. We don’t like changes, however, sometimes we just have to accept them. Do as much as possible to prepare. Remember, the changes may appear to be useful only after some time, so be patient.
- Rest, relax and listen to your body. Think about your wellbeing. Work-life balance should be present in your life at all times. Plan healthy meals. Exercise. Start a hobby. Whatever works for you and makes you happy will help recharge your batteries and will make you able to do your job.
- Continue teaching your students about the growth mindset. Change “impossible” into “I’m possible”!
Let our students be motivated and responsible for their own learning. Let them evolve by getting out of their comfort zones, we know that magic happens there. Believe in your students and yourself too. Never stop growing. You have the potential.
Inspired by my colleagues and supported by this great book: “The growth mindset coach” by A. Brock and H. Hundley
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