After a week of tough meetings, I’m recognizing a common theme in the mindsets of educators: we want a quick fix. As the last third of the school year is well underway, we are operating in and out of “I can’t wait for this school year to be over,” and “There is so much left to do with so little time!” In both instances, as we continue to want to do best by our kids, we want to quickly “fix” all of the things that our efforts haven’t “fixed” so far.
I’m here to say it again: there are no quick fixes, there is no “Mythical Silver Bullet,” “There is Not One Clear Answer.” There is always a need to recognize that we all have room to grow, we all have much to learn. Our students cannot wait for us to push past our egos that cause us to say things like, “I know what I’m doing, I’ve been teaching for ___ years.” These statements are often uttered by the very educators who have asked, for a long time, for help. When help/support/ideas are offered and it becomes clear that there are no quick fixes, the above statements are repeated. It’s a vicious cycle.
The answers I return to again and again: 1) Check our mindset – do we believe that all children can learn at high levels? 2) Check our mindset – do we believe that teachers are learners first? 3) Check our mindset – are we willing to adjust instruction based on results and evidence? 4) Check our mindset – are we willing to experience the discomfort that comes with change? 5) Check our mindset – do we have high expectations for all of our students? 6) Check our mindset – when we point the finger of blame, it is always pointed at others: administration, parents, students, other teachers? Is that finger of blame ever pointed back at ourselves?
I’m not suggesting that we shoulder all of the blame for those things that remain “unfixed.” I’m only suggesting that we engage in regular self reflection. At the beginning of March, I wrote, “And I’m not proposing that we beat ourselves up, only that we are perpetually wrapped up in a cycle of self-reflection and acting on recognized needs for change for the sake of our students. That’s what we are in the business for.”
My own mindset floats in and out of healthy places. The habits I continue to work to strengthen include: seeking out professional learning opportunities around effective reading instruction, instructional coaching, and high-impact instructional practices. In addition, a positive mindset does not come to me naturally. I feed it by dousing myself in resources about positive mindsets. For me, this is not a “one-and-done” venture. It’s a constant work in progress.
As an instructional literacy coach, I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t have the ability to “fix” all of the problems. I do, however, have a mindset that I continue to curate and mold. It is a mindset that focuses on the positive ( and is not so naive to believe that everything will be fine if we just think happy thoughts); it is a mindset that focuses on self-reflection; it is a mindset that focuses on solutions; it is a mindset that believes in building and contributing to a robust educational system with a narrow focus. It’s a mindset that is far from perfect, and that takes daily upkeep.
Today brings an amazing opportunity for me: I am one of a small group of educators in Iowa who get to attend a viewing of “The Truth About Reading” documentary. I am over-the-top excited to be a part of this monumental event, connect with fellow educators, and to hear directly from the guest speaker, David Chalk, “The Millionaire Who Couldn’t Read,” featured in the documentary. I’m guessing my mindset will shift once again.