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"Mindset opened my eyes to the possibilities in education to be systematic in creating real change for human beings." -Emily Diehl
It is finally summer, and I am ready to enjoy all the wonderful things that come with this season. Many educators, although we continue to work here and there, also get to use these weeks for play, rejuvenation, and growth.
Schools sometimes feel as if they go a mile-a-minute. At any time, there could be nearly one hundred things that I could be doing. I could work the entire summer, eight hours a day, and still not feel caught up. I had a former principal who said that a school year is like getting into a race car and driving it as fast as you can until you run it into a brick wall in June. Then you get out, shake your head, and say, “Let’s do that again!”
So during the summer it’s vital for educators to focus on giving themselves what they will need to sustain their energy during the school year. Breaking the routine and trying something new can be a great way to refresh. In which of the following areas would YOU most like to grow in these next weeks?
We lead because we have a passion for our work. But leading in a complex system can get confusing, overwhelming, and discouraging sometimes. Rather than resort to seductively easy ways to manage there are times we can choose to truly lead, capture people's hearts, and reignite passion!
I guest-teach in an intervention class twice a week and my partner always tells the students: "You can choose the behavior, but what you cannot choose is the consequences of that behavior." This absolutely applies to leaders as well. In school improvement, decision-making that results in change is very challenging to execute. Plus, that challenge is compounded by the sheer number of decisions that we must make every day.
Understandably, sometimes we aren't making the most growth-minded choices. After all, we still have to get the work done! Leaders often have to make strategic choices in managing and leading because decisions need to be made, deadlines met, and students placed in classes. At the same time, it is important to know the consequences of those choices. If leaders are hyper-aware of the likely consequences of their decisions, then a fixed-minded choice can be turned in to a growth minded one at a later date, upon reflection, and with a cooler head.
Arriving with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in 40+ U.S. states is tremendous pressure for schools to get results and to be masters of the Core as quickly as possible. Invoking the Growth Mindset as we accept the challenge of the Core standards will help our schools maintain the momentum and stamina we need to develop expertise.
How can schools set themselves up to cultivate Common Core experts? None of us is currently an expert in the CCSS. Expertise will emerge with classroom practice and experience implementing these standards with real students. It will emerge with the willingness to take responsible risks and to participate in collective reflection. It will emerge with strong collaboration and compassionate patience. These qualities are only gained in a risk-tolerant system through strategic, purposeful effort which includes timely, formative feedback.
3.3 million teachers will be asked to change their practices, routines, and lessons this year to align with the Common Core State Standards. That is a staggering number when you think about that many Americans essentially experiencing a major job change at the same time!
It is inevitable that with all this change, some of us will fail. We will mess it up. We will get it wrong and forget some essential component (of a standard, a lesson, a concept). Our central offices will mess up too. Trainings will go awry, resources arrive late, and support will be well-intentioned, but spotty. Are we prepared to tolerate this process and allow ourselves to take the necessary responsible risks to LEARN and grow?
I hope so.
"One thing you need to know is that they are really chatty," said the teacher's email. I'd been invited to do a demonstration lesson in a 5th grade class. Previously, I had asked the teacher about the logistics of her classroom (SMART board? yes. Popsicle sticks? yes. Rows or paired seating? chatty.).
"OK," I thought, "I guess I need to teach them my strategies." I went through my mental rolodex of classroom management acronyms, picked one and made a poster.
On the demonstration day, I located the 5th grade class at the assembly. The teacher smiled and waved at me, and we walked to the room along with the rest of the class. She stopped me before we all went in. "They are really bad," she quietly apologized. "Do you want me to help you?" I looked at the line of children in front of me, thinking "I wonder which of these kids is the toughest?"
I went to work: I watched how they entered the room and I made mental notes: Who had influence with his peers? Who had a desk facing AWAY from the front of the room? Who was sitting alone? Who had a Peanuts Pig Pen-style ring of trash and muck around her desk? Then I went into the room. But I didn't begin the lesson. Instead, I began connecting.