change mindset

Your mindset in and out of the classroom affects more people than you think.  Monique Valcour argues people’s mindsets at work not only impact their coworkers but also impact people’s partners, their family members, their networks and even the larger community. She explains people take  work related stress home and it negatively impacts the  well being of family members, and it can even affect children’s school performance. Valcour illustrates this  point by giving us the following example:  Individuals with a distrustful mindset who are very competitive at work and try to get ahead by taking credit, withholding or distorting information, assigning blame, or  shifting allegiances undermine the organization’s effectiveness by driving up stress and burnout in others.

I totally agree with Valcour.  I’ve worked with educators who’ve had negative mindsets and their negativity did affect me negatively at work and at home.  I’m sure you can think of instances when you’ve been affected negatively by a colleagues negative mindset. On the other hand, I’ve worked with educators who’ve had positive mindsets such as the mindsets of openness, trust and generosity.  These mindsets affected me positively at work and affected my family positively at  home. I’m sure you can think of  times when you’ve been affected positively by colleagues’ positive mindsets.  I can also think of times when I might of had a less than positive mindset and affected others negatively. I regret those instances but what can I say except I’m not perfect.

I just thought of an example when I changed my mindset about something  felt much better about my situation at work and went home happy and much less stressed. Bruce (not his real name)  and I taught the same subject for years. When we first started working together, I had hoped we could work together and create materials to use in our classes.   I’d worked with a colleague before in just this way and absolutely loved co-creating or creating and sharing lessons, handouts, etc. Unfortunately, Bruce and I didn’t have this type of working relationship. Bruce would simply take the  lessons, handouts etc. I’d created and use them but not give me any in return.  I thought that was so unfair and developed the mindset that Bruce  was exploiting me. I became very stressed by this. I talked about “the Bruce situation” all the time. My husband (bless him) finally told me he didn’t want to hear any more about Bruce- so you get the picture.  One day, for some reason,  I decided I would just share everything with Bruce that I created and not expect anything in return. I felt so great after I’d made that decision. I don’t know why I felt that way but the stress and resentment was gone.   It was so easy once I changed my mindset about “the Bruce situation” from resentment to generosity. I still don’t quite understand it, but being generous brought me well being.

It is astonishing how important the positive mindsets of our coworkers are to our well being. Valcour, citing Adam Grant , shares data from a 20-year longitudinal study of healthy people that reported people with social support from co-workers  were two and a half times  less likely to die prematurely than individuals who didn’t have positive co-worker  support. I’d come to realize over the years that positive support from my colleagues was psychologically beneficial , but I had no idea positive support from colleagues was that important  for  my physical well being.

Obviously a positive mindset is better for us and everyone around us. My question is how do you  recognize your negative mindsets and how do you go about changing them?   Any suggestions?








Ken Robinson argues education needs to nurture the seeds of possibility in all students. If the conditions in schools are right for students they’ll flourish. Robinson points out the high-performing education systems in the world such as Finland, Australia, South Korea and Singapore individualize teaching and learning to engage students’ curiosity, individuality, and creativity. He argues a more broad approach in education is needed. Schools need to stop obsessing on science, technology, engineering and math and focus more on physical education, humanities and the arts. Robinson explains:

(T)ake an area, a school, a district, you change the conditions, give people a different sense of possibilities, a different set of expectations, a broader range of opportunities, you cherish and value the relationships between teachers and learners, you offer people the discretion to be creative and to innovate in what they do, and schools that were once bereft spring to life.

Robinson explains we could learn other lessons about improving our education. The high-performing education systems in the world attribute a high status to the teaching profession. Robinson explains you need great people to teach and give them the ongoing support and professional development they need to do their best. He argues that professional development is not a cost; professional development is an investment.

I agree with Ken Robinson. What can I say. He has hit the nail right on the head ( my Dad was a carpenter). Schools need to respect students’ curiosity, individuality, and creativity and give them a different range of possibilities, expectations and opportunities so they can flourish as students. The education system also needs to respect the teaching profession by ensuring the best people become teachers and provide them with the on going support and professional development they need so they can flourish as teachers.

I’ve posted the Ken Robinson video below so you can hear and see him speak. Robinson is very entertaining as he calls for a revolution in the education system.

factoryOften, especially early in my teaching career,  I’ve felt as if I was  just a clog in the education system or maybe just a type of resource for the education system to use.  I’m a resource because I have certain qualities and skills the system needs and can use.  The system decides how to use its resources (me)  to its best advantage. I really have little say in how the system uses me.  Oh yes, I get to fill out that little piece of paper to tell administration what classes I would prefer to teach but the fine print say that might not happen.  I might be asked to teach something I’m not qualified to teach because that’s what I’m needed for.  For example, because I good with kids who are academically at risk, I was assigned to teach cooking  to a grade 10 class of academically at risk  students. They could barely read.   It didn’t matter that I wasn’t qualified to teach cooking, the system needed me to teach cooking because the real cooking teacher wasn’t good with academically at risk students. The system needed a peaceful class (no problems for admin) so I got placed in the cooking class. Teaching that cooking class was so scary because most of the time I had no idea what to do. I thought I’d die when just after a class on knife safety, one of my students cut his finger.  I was so  mad that I had to teach the class, I gave the poor lad a paper towel and told him to go to the office and not drip blood all over the floor.  Talk about empathy!!!  I felt badly afterwards and apologized to the student.  I felt badly for myself too. I could have  refuse to teach the cooking class. I could have said no,  but then I wouldn’t have a job. I would be a resource the system had no use for.  Thankfully, I only had to teach that class once.  There have been lots of examples in my career when I felt as if  the education system treated my like a resource.  Thinking back I’m beginning to wonder why I loved teaching so much.

Do you ever feel as if you are a clog or a resource used by the educational system? Do you think that’s just the way it is or do you think we could change the education system so it doesn’t treat teachers like a resource?

j0433160When I was a student,  I loved being in the drama club and playing volleyball and basketball on the junior and senior  teams at my high school.  I wasn’t a star by any means, but I was a member of the drama club  and a member of the team which was important at that time.  Those extracurricular activities made my life almost bearable during my teen years. I wanted school to be more than just the 3 rs. I didn’t just want to be in a classroom living in my head during my school years.  I longed to be part of something more than a class.  eEtracurricular activities enabled me to satisfy my longing to part of something more than a class. When I became a teacher, I decided I would participate in extracurricular activities to enable students to benefit from extra curricular activities much  the way I had benefited all those years ago. Imagine my surprise when I realized that as a  teacher I was still  benefiting from participating in extra curricular activities. I recognize students participate in extracurricular activities for many reasons,  not just the reasons I had for participating . Extra curricular activities are important for students in many ways.

I’ll be honest here. Participating in extra curricular activities is important for me as a teacher because participating in extracurricular  activities  would often help make my classrooms more bearable .  Over the years some of my classes have been very challenging- to say the least. Many of my academically at risk students  were disengaged from school.  They were only at school because the law said they had to be at school.  I felt really great when I got to see students who were disengaged from the classroom become more and more engaged in the classroom because they were  began participating in extracurricular activities such as  basketball, football or yes even the knitting club.   I’ll admit  I got to see my academically at risk students in a different more positive light during extracurricular activities and my students got to see me in a different light too that resulted in a more positive  student/teacher relationship.  That is a very good thing.

When I think of school and the student body, I think of classrooms as the head of the student body and extracurricular activities as the heart of the student body.We need to balance the head and the heart of the student body.  Life is not only lived in the head, but it is also lived  in the heart.   Students’ school experience and yes even teachers’ school experience needs to  include developing and satisfying the needs of their heads and hearts,  and  when teachers are told not to participate in extracurricular activities for political reasons, students and teachers suffer.


Next Page →

 Subscribe to stay up to date. Teachers at Risk is informative. It's free.

  • apple144
  • Meta

  • Archives