I firmly believe that teaching is a selfless profession. Almost every teacher I’ve known chose the path of education because they wanted to make a meaningful difference in the world. Teaching allows us to connect with students, encourage new ideas, and inspire positive change. We get to foster a new generation of citizens who are inquisitive, innovative, creative, and unafraid of problem-solving. At the risk of sounding sappy, it’s not just a career, it’s a calling.
Like all things however, teaching can have its pitfalls. One of the most common traps for educators is falling into safe and predictable routines. Don’t get me wrong, routines certainly have their place in teaching. They provide structure, direction, and can help set the pace for learning. If we’re not careful though, repetition can lead to stagnant thinking, stale content, and diminished engagement.
Show and Tell
So, here’s a not-so-revolutionary tip for helping your students develop a growth mindset – model it. The best way to teach your students how to be a curious, creative, and critical thinker is if they see you acting as one. A growth mindset is not like a folder or a notebook, it’s doesn’t shut once class is over. Instead, a growth mindset is a way of looking at the world around you. One which welcomes questions and seeks out answers with knowledge and inquiry.
So, are you modeling a growth mindset for your students? Here are just a few questions teachers should be asking themselves as they begin the new school year:
- Am I Inquisitive? Do you have burning questions about the world around you and are you motivated to find answers daily? Do you share these questions with your students, so they see your passion for knowledge?
- Am I Being Innovative? Do you routinely bring new ideas to the classroom? If you don’t feel you have that capacity, do you seek out innovative people and put them in front of your students? Do you not only permit, but actively encourage, alternate answers and/or procedures from your students?
- Am I Being Creative? When was the last time you created something? Is there anything that you created where you started with nothing and ended with something? It could be a recipe, a lesson plan, a doodle drawing. Do you find value in the process of creating something? Do your students know you value that? What is your process and do your students know the satisfaction it gives you?
- Am I a Problem-Solver? Do you shy away from challenges or do you face them head-on? And when you do face them, what do you tell your students about them? Do you only tell them about the last thing you tried that worked? Or do you also share the failures that preceded the solution? Even better do you share the problems you haven’t solved yet but show them you will persist until you have an answer?
Learn By Doing
It’s been said that in order to change the world, we must first change themselves. The same holds true in the classroom: if we want to teach our students how to think, we must first learn ourselves. Whatever hopes you have for your students, first ask yourself if you exhibit those qualities yourself? If yes, remember to practice and model them in your classroom. If not, ask yourself how you can better acquire these skills and develop them over time. After all, just because we’re educators doesn’t mean we can’t learn ourselves!
*This article adapted from the existing writings of Terra Tarango.