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This post was originally published on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Blog, The Spark (4.29.2016)
If you have had the pleasure of hearing Carol Dweck speak in the past few months, you will have heard what we have learned in recent years about cultivating a growth mindset in ourselves and in others. One of her slides that really resonated with the audience at the Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco suggested that adults talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. On a stick figure graphic, a disembodied head is traveling in the opposite direction from its body. And this is a major issue: adults forget that we can't effectively cultivate or influence a growth mindset in others unless we are cultivating one in ourselves. We have to take the journey, walking in the same direction that we are talking.
This couldn't be truer for leaders. Leaders (whether that be by title or merely by influence) can influence the mindsets of other adults. No, you can't change another person. However, you can have great influence over others.
My team and I worked tirelessly for three days to create an online middle school math lesson that would engage kids and excite them about math. At the end of three days, our lesson would be judged by real live students against lessons created by other teams. When it came time to present our lesson to the kids, we were nervous but excited. We had worked well as a team, really bonded over the past three days, and were proud of what we had created. Ten teams presented their ideas, and they were all fantastic! I felt gratified to work with people who put so much effort into writing creative and engaging online lessons. At the awards ceremony, we were sad to see we hadn't won first place, but still proud of our efforts. We knew we had a lesson that would engage kids in math, and felt we had put our best ideas to good use. Until the next, "surprise" award was announced. You can imagine our shock, dismay, and embarrassment when we heard our group called as winners of "The Worst Idea" award, and were then called to stand in front of our colleagues and accept the award. What an epic failure! How does one recover from such a humiliating setback?
This article is dedicated to educators of the world who need encouragement. Its purpose is to help teachers keep the joy and magic alive in teaching. It will provide necessary tools to avoid compassion-fatigue, strengthen emotional intelligence and build resiliency. A happier teacher is going to be far better able to nurture, educate and help students. As a fellow educator it is my hope that the words of this article jump off the page and into your hearts.
To be the best at our jobs, we must care for ourselves before we can care for our students. It isn't the day-to-day load that weighs us down, it is how we carry and manage it. If our general outlook upon life and moods are not at their best, we will be less effective with students. We must learn to excel in eagerness, inner strength and optimism.
The demands placed on today's teachers are much more varied and difficult than ever before in history. There will be days when we feel like shark bait ready to be gobbled up by a school of hungry, seething predators. There will be times when we truly wonder why we ever went into this wacky profession... "How soon does the next plane leave for Siberia?"
An Interview with Dr. Marilee Adams, professor at American University and best-selling author of a new book, Teaching That Changes Lives
EMILY DIEHL: Welcome to the Mindset Works Newsletter Podcast. I am Emily Diehl. Today we will be talking with Dr. Marilee Adams. Dr. Adams is the author of three books that focus on questions and mindsets. The first was a cognitive-behavioral psychology textbook entitled The Art of the Question. Next she wrote Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, which is an international bestseller. Her latest book, Teaching That Changes Lives, came out just last week. Dr. Adams is the president of the Inquiry Institute. She is also an advisor to Learning Forward New Jersey and an adjunct professor of leadership, American University. Dr. Adams, thank you for joining us!
MARILEE ADAMS: I am so pleased to be here, Emily, and I'm honored too, because I consider Dr. Dweck's work on mindsets a major advance in psychology in general. She has alerted the world to the importance of the growth mindset and I love that she has taken her academic work way beyond academia into making a practical difference. It's so important.