Reflect on the strategies you are using daily to keep a pulse on your mindset.
When was the last time you conducted a self-check on your mindset? Mindset, or mental attitude, can positively or negatively impact all aspects of your life. Take a moment to answer these three questions.
- What strategies am I using daily to keep a pulse on my mindset?
- Have I had the tendency to react negatively or positively?
- When my Mindset Pendulum swings too far towards negativity, what is my routine for pulling myself back towards the positive side of life?
And how are the children?
A few weeks ago, I walked into one of my school’s grade one classrooms. It still amazes me how engaged and excited the students are to learn as much as they can as fast as they can. This day was no different than any other or so I thought. I walked around and every student immediately began telling me about their task and explained their work. Students read to me, defined high-level academic vocabulary, and beamed with pride.
As we enter the last few months of an increasingly ever-changing fast paced school year, you may be thinking that you have nothing left to give. I’m here to tell you that you have more left in you than you will ever know. Pull out the data and assignments students completed during those first few weeks of school. Then compare it with data and assignments scholars have completed over the last few weeks. As you think about all of the layers the pandemic has added to our work, it fills me with a great amount of pride to see everything that our students and everyone in education have accomplished in just a few short months.
Life is a challenge…
Yes, I realize that it hasn’t been easy. I also understand that the constant instability and pivots we have had to make both inside the school building and in our lives in general have been extremely taxing on our mental well-being. If you have not developed routine self-care lifestyle changes, I encourage you to pull out your calendar and block off time to care for YOU.
Before closing the calendar, consider setting weekly alerts to remind you to stop and care for yourself. Sporadic self-care activities used to be enough to help clear our minds, rejuvenate our energy, and fuel us to keep moving forward. These random calming moments were sufficient when we had random chaotic and stressful moments in our world. The last few years have produced stressful moments every few minutes of the day. If you find yourself in a state of negativity, look within, and create lifestyle shifts to keep your mindset pendulum in balance.
We are on the homestretch, that final lap, and it is what we choose to do in this moment in time that will determine if our students will continue to press on or slide back into a learning slump.
Reflecting on the past as we move forward.
Our children have come too far, pushing on in the midst of intermittent school closures, illnesses in their classroom and homes, dealt with food insecurity, upheaval in their living arrangements, and so much more.
Yet, they watched you put on a brave face and it inspires them to strive for greatness. It is because of you that our students have continued to grow. It is because of you that we have broken through the learning loss barrier and move students at a pace that researchers could never have predicted possible. You are a natural beam of hope for families and communities.
Even in a state of exhaustion, you rise up and give our students nothing less than the best you have each and every day. Although you may be fatigued, exhausted, at a state of tiredness that you have never felt before, you must continue to press on and stay focused on the goal of helping every child to grow and learn as much as fast as they can. The past few years have been extremely taxing. Focusing on the direction of your Mindset Pendulum will assist you as you keep moving forward.
Clearing the fog…
If you are in need of a little self-motivation to help you clear the fog and shift your perspective, try this. Take a moment to reflect on the last six months. Write the numbers 1-5 on a sheet of paper. List five of your students’ most significant accomplishments over the past year.
I’m willing to bet that you will have a hard time deciding which five to document because when you really stop to pause and reflect you will realize just how far your students have come, you will see that there have been many accomplishments. Even still, you will also realize that you could not have possibly forecasted all of the wonderful moments that have filled the days over the past year. It is in times like this that I carve out a little time to check in on my progress towards both professional and personal goals. This progress is what I will use to help me keep the pendulum leaning towards the positive as I work to find the strength to help me wind down the most unprecedented year that I have had in education to date.
As you think about the progress that has been made, I want to share three strategies that I use to keep my mindset pendulum in check.
#1: Don’t lose hope. Everything happens for a reason.
Merriam-Webster defines hope as “to expect with confidence; trust. Our families, students, and communities are trusting us to prepare students for the future. On days when my mindset is swinging in the wrong direction, I often visit my grade 1 students. I listen and watch them work and think of what’s in their learning DNA—Dreams, Needs, and Abilities.
If these students—who first walked into a school building for their first official day inside the walls of a building at age 6—can smile and give it their all, so can I. These very students, many of which had not held a pencil, stood in a line, learned to write their name, learned any of the Fry words, and so many more things, can’t wait to get to their class each day to begin learning.
#2: Remember your purpose.
When we’re focused on pursuing our purpose rather than chasing after happiness, we’ll be more likely to persist through the inevitable challenges that arise when dealing with the complex — and sometimes chaotic — nature of our work. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, “Never forget, you are teaching someone’s child—for that reason alone, you have one of the most valuable jobs in the world” (Alsheimer, 2021).
Prior to the pandemic, my principal used to have every staff member write down our why and turn it in. Once we did this, he would type them up and post them by our doors outside of our classroom. At the time, I turned it in to be compliant. I didn’t really understand its purpose until we returned to the in-person setting last year. The first day I walked in and saw them on the walls.
My why hit me differently that day. I realized that it was a symbol, a visual representation of the reason I am in education, Now that I have my own school, I take pictures, capture memorable moments daily, and add them to my school’s why wall. These magical moments are shared with my students and staff during our virtual morning announcements to help us all remember our why and shift our mindset towards positivity each and every day.
What strategy are you using to remind yourself and your students of their purpose? What’s on your why wall? Your why wall doesn’t have to be something fancy. It just needs to be posted in a place where every student can see it. If you need inspiration for your why wall, read Rachel Real’s rationale and example of a why wall.
#3: Keep your eye on the pendulum.
On days that you are at your lowest, ask yourself, Is my Mindset pendulum swinging in balance? There are 1,440 minutes in each day. If you are not careful, you will spend every moment of your day consumed in the work. Not because you want to, but because each time you stand in front of children and teach a lesson you realize just how much more there is to do.
Give yourself permission to slow down just a little. Know that it will take more than one school year for us to strengthen students’ academic foundation. Trust me when I tell you that you are doing ENOUGH. Don’t sacrifice your own mental well-being by neglecting your family, friends, and personal projects to work on lesson plans, upcoming tasks, workstations, or any other work-related item. You will never be able to give students your best if you fail to focus on YOU.
Is your Mindset Pendulum in balance?
Failing to prioritize keeping your eye on your own Mindset Pendulum will result in you questioning your own purpose, send you spiraling into negativity, and it may even lead to you asking why you are in this profession at all. You chose this profession because you care about children, know that education is the foundation of all professions, and the future of our world sits in desks or tables in front of you each and every day.
When your pendulum begins to shift in the wrong direction, swing it back by stopping and focusing on your own personal needs. It’s okay to sit and do nothing if that’s what you need, take a nap, go for a walk in the park, plan a vacation. Do whatever it takes to keep pushing and inspiring our students towards excellence.
Putting It All Together
Our mindset determines our perspective. A shift in mindset could be the missing element to increasing student achievement. We teach our students to “believe they can get smarter, effort makes them stronger, to expect to productively struggle as they persevere through assignments, and that they learn from their mistakes” (Fowler-White, 2021).
As you continue to face the inner struggles within to keep your Mindset Pendulum swinging towards the positive, I want to remind you that effort makes you stronger, you should expect to productively struggle as we persevere through the unknown layers while working to combat learning loss and unpredictable pivots in education. Lastly, we are not perfect. We may not get everything right the first time. The key is to shift and learn from our mistakes and work to maintain a peaceful state of mind as we continue moving forward. We can, we will, we have everything we need to overcome this and any other challenge that we face as long as we continue to move forward together.
In my second installment of the Better Mindset series, I wrote about the mindset triggers that were leaning me towards negativity as we prepared to enter school buildings after being at home for almost a year.
These words still ring true today…
We must stop attempting to compare and duplicate pre-pandemic educational and school-wide practices. Life, our children, and even you and I are not the same people that we were one year ago. Every day for the past year, we have endured continuous change, an unspoken type of trauma that has and will forever change the way we live, think, and learn.
As we work to continue moving forward, we simply just need to stop, breathe, and remember that our purpose is to educate children. We are not the same, so as we continue to reimagine education, we must also remember to revise, revamp, and reinvent how we keep a pulse on our Mindset Pendulum and care for ourselves. What strategies will you adopt to ensure that your mindset swings towards the positive each day?
Alsheimer, J. (2021). Renaissance Recharge. Facebook, February 17, 2021. Accessed on 3 April.
Fowler-White, J. (2021). Defining Moments, Mindset, and Moving Forward.
Fowler-White, J. (2021). Educator Reflection Tips, Volume II: Refining Our Practice.
“Hope.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hope. Accessed 3 April.
Real, R. (2021). Why You Need a “Why Wall”
To read more of this series, visit the Better Mindset Series on TeachBetter.com.
About Jami Fowler-White
Jami Fowler-White is the founder and CEO of Digital PD 4 You, LLC and co-creator of the Ignite Leadership Summit. Over the past two decades, she has served in many capacities in education which include ten years as a classroom teacher, ten years as an Instructional Coach, and a Core Advocate with Achieve the Core.
She currently mentors First-time and Renewal candidates for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and is a charter member of the National Board Network of Minoritized Educators and Black Women Education Leaders, Incorporated. Additionally, Mrs. Fowler-White is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and is currently serving as a Principal in Memphis-Shelby County Schools (TN).
Fowler-White also provides professional development under the umbrella of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and Digital PD 4 You for schools and districts. She is the author/coauthor of several books including, Educator Reflection Tips, Volume #1, EduMatch’s Snapshot in Education 2020: Remote Learning Edition, The Skin You are In: Colorism in the Black Community, 2nd Edition, and Educator Reflection Tips, Volume II: Refining our Practice. Jami blogs at DigitalPD4You.com , has a bi-monthly leadership blog on Insight Advance, and writes a monthly blog entitled the Better Mindset on TeachBetter.com. She invites you to connect with her on Twitter at @JjJj821 and on the Digital PD 4 You Facebook page.