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It's All in the Mindset

December 23, 2011 / by Sarah Brown Wessling

It's time for a novice blogger's confession. I've been slow. Painstakingly slow as a writer trying to learn her audience and find my voice. I already lost track of what iteration this short piece is on. But in the writing I'm learning and what I'm learning is that we are a community of professionals not only eager to see teachers teaching, but to find out how to use this kind of video for our own professional growth. I am convinced that this unique transparency of the classroom can elevate us all, especially when we bring a flexible mindset, willing to grow in (sometimes) uneasy ways.

It takes a lot of energy to go forward when we teach. There's the recognition that our constantly changing students need teachers who, too, are consistently growing. It's the inertia it takes to actually put change in motion. And, of course, there's the necessary fortitude it takes to resist the status quo.

This is only complicated by the many strategies, programs, ideas and initiatives that come our way, all certain to revolutionize school and grant some much needed levity to inundated teachers. But all of this just creates clutter and it's the clutter that causes us to confuse the surface fixes with the real ones. We intuitively know when we come across a surface fix: the management technique, the Web 2.0 tool, the well-crafted assignment. These alleviate our clutter, but don't necessarily require a shift in mindset. Rather, they coalesce with what we already know and validate (in often very valuable ways) what we're already doing.

And while it's necessary for teaching practices to be reinforced, we also know that professional growth doesn't occur without a little rub, a little dissonance. So, the key to unearthing our own formative change comes in our mindset, in our willingness to resist the adage that "I'm already doing this" which immediately puts us into compliance mode and shuts the door on rewarding growth. One of the lessons I teach my students applies to us all.

I often tell them that literature can be like a window or a mirror; it can give us access to something we’d never known before or it can reflect parts of who we are. The same holds true for our professional growth, for the way we come to Teaching Channel vignettes: these are opportunities for us to cast a different light, to propose new questions, to reexamine what's familiar. It's a chance to find a ready mind.

Topics: Professional Learning, Growth Mindset

Sarah Brown Wessling

Written by Sarah Brown Wessling

Sarah Brown Wessling is a high school English teacher in Johnston, Iowa. She is the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and is the Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel. Connect with Sarah on Twitter – @SarahWessling.

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