5 Tips for Maintaining a Teacher Growth Mindset

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April 9, 2024

I recently came across a book titled “The Magical Yet” by Angela DiTerlizzi. It completely changed the way I teach. One of the most valuable skills we can foster in our students is the concept of a growth mindset.

Psychologist Carol Dweck says, “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.”        
A growth mindset mentality has the potential to foster a more positive and growth-oriented learning environment, an environment where students are empowered to persist, learn from mistakes and ultimately achieve success.

“The Magical Yet” is an enchanting tale about a child learning to ride their new bike. After falling off their bike, the child decides this setback is a failure and vows never to ride again. The character plans to “walk … forever.”

While walking down a path, the child learns the small but powerful word “yet.” The child remembers past accomplishments and is encouraged to continue persevering. The child eventually learns to ride the bike and, by the end of the story, is graduating college. The story reinforces the growth mindset philosophy that teaches children that anything is possible with practice, sound strategy and effort.

But do we maintain that philosophy as educators? We face challenges and setbacks in the classroom daily. How you react to a setback or challenge differentiates your mindset. Do you internalize setbacks or struggles and give up, or do you see them as an opportunity to learn and grow?

I know this is easier said than done. So, this month, I thought I would give you five tips to cultivate and maintain a teacher growth mindset.

Embrace Challenges

Encourage yourself to view challenges in the classroom as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles. When faced with difficult situations, remember that overcoming them will lead to personal and professional development. Model resilience and perseverance for your students by demonstrating how you approach challenges positively.

Emphasize Effort and Process

Shift the focus from innate ability to the importance of effort and learning. Praise students for their hard work, strategies and progress rather than solely focusing on their intelligence or talent. Similarly, acknowledge your own efforts and strategies in your teaching practice and celebrate incremental improvements over time.

Learn from Feedback

Be open to feedback from colleagues, administrators and students. Instead of feeling defensive or discouraged by criticism, view feedback as valuable information to help you grow and improve. Actively seek constructive feedback and reflect on how to incorporate it into your teaching practice to enhance student learning.

Cultivate Curiosity and Lifelong Learning

Foster a love of learning and curiosity within yourself and your students. Stay curious about new teaching strategies, educational research and advancements in education. To expand your knowledge and skills, seek out professional development opportunities, such as workshops, conferences and online courses. Encourage students to ask questions, explore topics deeply and engage in independent inquiry.

Maintain a Positive Mindset

Cultivate a positive outlook and mindset in your teaching practice. Practice self-compassion and resilience by reframing setbacks and failures as learning experiences rather than personal shortcomings. Surround yourself with supportive colleagues who share your commitment to growth and improvement. Incorporate mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or reflective journaling, into your daily routine to help manage stress and maintain a positive mindset.

By implementing these few tips, you can foster a growth mindset within yourself and create a classroom environment that promotes learning resilience, and continuous improvement.

2023-24 Michigan Teacher of the Year Candice Jackson is a third-grade teacher and instructional coach at Mann Learning Community in Detroit Public Schools Community District. She's been in the Detroit district since 2002 and at Mann since 2017.