"The truth of Zen, just a little bit of it, is what turns one's humdrum life, a life of monotonous,..
We’ve talked a lot about the growth mindset and some of the best ways to teach it to your students. But in all this, we’ve placed someone very important on the back burner—teachers are just like you. What about teachers and how the growth mindset can benefit them as well?
Think of this article as both an apology and a guideline. We certainly didn’t mean to forget about you, and it’s absolutely certain that the growth mindset can serve adults of all professions just it can on our young children.
5 Growth Mindset Practices for Teachers
We’re going to keep things as simple as possible, though, and provide you with some easy ways you can begin fitting the growth mindset practices into your daily routine, both in and out of school.
Build a Network
This is one of the most positive and beneficial growth mindset practices you can adopt as an educator. Having a solid professional learning network helps you with making connections and forging relationships with like-minded educators near and far.
Inside this network, you share ideas and resources, have amazing discussions about your profession, and safely voice your concerns. Perhaps the biggest benefit to a PLN, however, is that you’re consistently learning and developing new practices to enhance your teaching practice, and also enhance yourself as a person.
A great starting point comes from the Edutopia article How Do I Get a PLN? Tom Whitby suggests beginning with as little as twenty minutes a day doing one or more of the following:
- Start a Twitter account and follow some educators
- Connect with educators on Google+
- Read education blogs
- Follow education chats specific to your content area
- Get involved in education groups on Facebook and LinkedIn
- Accept invitations to collaborate
Ask Lots of Questions
Those who grow always want to know—it’s a good mantra to have. The reason is that the very act of asking questions and finding answers is synonymous with what the growth mindset is all about: improvement, curiosity and, well, growth.
Consider how many questions a child can ask in one sitting. It can make your head spin, as their thirst for understanding and expansion seems inexhaustible. Obviously, you won’t be following your peers around like a child would and posing query after query. You can, however, take from that youthful tenacity and fearlessness in knowing what they want to know.
For the child, it’s about exploration and development being at the heart of that curiosity. It’s the same way for you too, just on a more refined level. The answers you seek now are about exploring personal and professional questions and problems through the lens of deep inquiry.
You are still learning and growing and always will be. The only difference is you’re capable of being much more selective of what it’s important to be curious about.
Be an Active Listener
In as much as we must ask our questions and share our knowledge, the other half of learning is listening. We listen to understand, absorb, and make choices, and active listening helps us do it right.
Begin with these points and work with one or more as you converse with both your learners and your professional network colleagues.
- Don’t talk: Quiet yourself, and be open and available to what is being sought by the other person through your listening.
- Get into listening mode: Quiet the environment and mentally open your mind to hearing by getting comfortable and engaging in eye contact.
- Make the speaker feel comfortable: Examples of this might be nodding or using gestures. Seating is also important. Decide if the speaker will feel more comfortable if you stay behind your desk, or if you took a chair beside them. For smaller children, get at their eye level instead of towering over them.
- Remove distractions: If necessary, clear the room, shut off tech screens, and silence your phone. You may also need to move to a more private location.
- Empathize: This is about looking inward and sharing similar experiences with who is speaking. Share them only if appropriate; otherwise, it’s always about the other person.
- Embrace silence: Some people need time to formulate a thoughtful response. Rushing them through, or suggesting what they want to say, robs them of the opportunity to communicate honestly. Let it be silent if it needs to be.
- Leave out personal prejudice: This can be difficult as our experiences form who we are. Putting all those experiences aside is a skill which requires practice.
- Heed the tone: Sometimes tone can hide the meaning of the words, and sometimes the tone enhances the meaning of the words. Know which is which.
- Listen for underlying meanings, not words: Listen first for comprehension, and then a second time for ideas.
- Pay attention to non-verbal communication: People communicate through body language and facial expressions, which is why eye contact is necessary.
Listen to Something Positive
It may sound trite, but it helps. What you are doing here is reprogramming your subconscious mind for growth and positivity, especially if you make this a daily habit.
One of the most powerful positive mindset meditations ever recorded was Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret. This is a piece of advice that, in 30 short minutes a day, changed the outlooks and the lives of millions of people all over the world.
Despite the dated context (it was recorded in 1957), it still shares a helpful and encouraging perspective on mindset, the idea of success, and what’s possible for us if we choose the pain of discipline over the pain of regret.
This tip works just as well with reading something positive every day. Dive into the works of Louise Hay, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Napoleon Hill, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, or Rhonda Byrne. Start with ten to twenty pages a day—your life and your teaching will probably never be the same again.
When the day is done and we leave the classrooms and meetings behind, the best of all growth mindset practices for teachers involves reflecting on that day. This is a must if we are to continue improving, refining, and discovering things about our practice and about ourselves.
We get it—the school year (or day or week, for that matter) is full-on and it can be a challenge to carve out time to reflect and debrief. So how can busy teachers make it happen?
One of the easiest ways is to make time for solo or group reflection in professional development sessions, or in daily meetings. It’s an essential part of the process of transforming your practice through transforming yourself.
Take some cues from the suggestions in the article 10 Reflective Questions for Teachers to Use Every Day:
- What was my best moment today and how can I have more moments like it?
- What was my most challenging moment and why? How will I respond next time?
- Were my students excited to be in class? If not, what can I do to change this?
- How was my mood with others today and how can I improve it?
- How well did I communicate with others today and how can I do this better?
- In what ways did my students surprise me most today?
- How did I support my colleagues today and how will I continue to do so?
- What are the biggest obstacles to improving my practice and how will I overcome them?
- What did I do today for myself and why is this important?
- What do I want everyone to be able to say about me?
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Sept 24, 2019, updated Nov 11, 2021