Transformational Learning and Leadership
Chapter: Teacher Mindsets

Ways of Being

Across cultures and contexts, we see orientations and mindsets growing in teachers who align efforts toward a shared, contextualized vision of students’ leadership and opportunities. 

I. THE WHO: CONNECTION

Mindsets related to growing from “seeking control” to “sharing ownership”

  • RESPECT & HUMILITY
  • EMPATHY
  • COLLABORATION
  • VALUING SELF-DETERMINATION

II. THE WHY: CONVICTION

Mindsets related to growing from extrinsic to intrinsic motivations

  • INTEGRITY
  • TRUTH & HOPE
  • INTOLERANCE OF INJUSTICE
  • “NETWORK OF MUTUALITY”

III. THE WHAT: CLARITY

Mindsets related to growing from focus on short-term symptoms to focus on long-term causes

  • ROOT-CAUSE/SYSTEMS THINKING
  • VISION & GOAL DRIVENNESS
  • HIGH EXPECTATIONS
  • ACCOUNTABILITY

IV. THE HOW: CAPABILITYscreen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-48-03-pm

Mindsets related to growing from “checklist” completion to vision-driven innovation

  • LOCUS OF CONTROL
  • GROWTH MINDSET
  • ASSET-BASED
  • INFORMED BOLDNESS

In this section, we hope you discover actionable implications of teacher mindsets by understanding the landscape of mindsets, engaging in patterns we see in strong classrooms, and virtually visiting classrooms where mindsets are key.

We Still Have So Much to Learn About Mindsets

In contrast to the countless list and rubrics and frameworks of teacher actions out there, there is so little in screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-49-40-pmthe education landscape about the role mindsets play in teacher support and development. Indeed, the systems in which many of our teachers work are virtually silent on mindsets.

But a few organizations within our our network, the network’s stronger classrooms, and some external voices are loud and clear: mindsets are crucial. What we believe about our students and how we understand and see them is seen, felt, and heard in our interactions with them. How we are being with them is as important, if not more important, than what we’re doing for them.

We’re still learning about how to grow and cultivate mindsets which empower students.

But once again, we aren’t starting from nothing when it comes to mindsets: Transformational classrooms across the network are embracing orientations around Connection, Conviction, Clarity and Capability. You can begin to explore these orientations and the specific mindsets that underpin them on the next  page.

These orientations are vary from context to context, but the spirit of them is similar. And we expect to evolve them as we learn more from partners and classrooms. Let’s explore.

 

Teacher Orientations & Mindsets

the who CONNECTION: growing from “seeking control” to “sharing ownership”

This orientation involves deepening an understanding of self and others in order to build a diverse coalition.  This orientation means affirm the identities and leadership of students, families, and/or community members, in the spirit of our core belief that every human deserves the right to be the captain screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-51-24-pmof her own destiny. Is the classroom student-centered? Are parents treated as real partners? Are we leveraging our backgrounds thoughtfully and responsibly?  This work involves seeing and treating others as assets, understanding how issues of race, class, privilege, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other facets of identity affect how one may be perceived and how one perceive others.  We aspire to grow to evoke and leverage the leadership of those around us. This orientation manifests in a combination of mindsets like:

  • RESPECT & HUMILITY
    • seeing others’ assets
    • and our own limitations
    • X
  • EMPATHY
    • seeking to understand and share the perspectives and experiences of others
    • X
  • COLLABORATION
    • working alongside others
    • to address challenges
    • X
  • VALUING SELF-DETERMINATION
    • honoring the perspectives and expertise of those most directly affected by injustice
    • X

the why CONVICTION: growing from extrinsic to intrinsic motivations

This orientation involves deepening our conviction and persistence to bring our full energies to this work.  We learn to stoke the intrinsic values that bring us to (and sustain us in) our work, to align our actions to those values, and to develop a contextualized understanding of why teachers are vital if students from historically disempowered communities are to be empowered through their schooling. Is the teacher working hard for her students because she has connected to this work’s intrinsic importance?  Is the teacher making decisions for the future based on a thoughtful contemplation about the kind of leader she wishes to be? This work involves readying for—and resisting—the natural pulls of doubt, disillusionment, fatigue, or external pressures that may prompt them to step away from their commitments to our children and our mission.  We aspire to grow to have given our all to their students, to have strengthened our own personal narrative as to why we do the work we do, and to make future decisions based on the values we aim to live by. This orientation manifests in a combination of mindsets like (but not limited to):

  • INTEGRITY
    • alignment of actions
    • with critically considered values
    • X
  • “TRUTH & HOPE”
    • recognition of reality alongside conviction that the future can be different than predicted 
  • INTOLERANCE OF INJUSTICE
    • working from a commitment
    • to living in a just society
    • X
  • “NETWORK OF MUTUALITY”
    • Working from a perspective that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”

the what CLARITY:  growing from focus on short-term symptoms to focus on long-term causes

This orientation involves sharpening clarity for a classroom vision and develop an emerging theory of change.  We aim to orient toward systemic, enduring solutions to inequity and to make our work in the classroom one important lever in the larger struggle for change.  We therefore must learn to set and maintain the kind of high bar for performance that gives students access to life-changing opportunities and equips students with the skills and orientations to achieve once there. Is a teacher consistently asking whether what is happening in class represents what needs to be true for students to have full agency in their lives? This work involves readying for—and resisting—the pulls toward using a relative bar to measure success, a focus only on what’s urgent, or a tendency to slip into auto-pilot.  We aspire, as growing leaders, to internalize the importance of an enduring-change mindset in approaching vision-setting, to develop an emerging theory of change informed by an examination of the systems of inequity that conspire to perpetuate our children’s disempowerment, and to guide our own and our students’ future efforts towards our mission. This orientation manifests in a combination of mindsets like (but not limited to):

  • ROOT CAUSE/SYSTEMS-THINKING
    • assumption that problem-solving requires systemic analysis, including politics and power
  • ORIENTATION TO VISION
    • alignment of every action, decision, judgment, goal
    • with the ultimate aims
    • X
  • HIGH EXPECTATIONS
    • calibration of aims with
    • others’ and own full potential
    • X
  • ACCOUNTABILITY
    • Insistence on responsibility for measurable, 
    • vision-aligned results
    • X

the how CAPABILITY:  growing from checklist completion to vision-aligned innovation

This orientation involves empowerment and efficacy and an increased sense of agency and ability to make change.  We aim to equip ourselves and each other with the knowledge and skills to be excellent educators in our placement area, a set of powerful habits (e.g. internal locus of control, reflective practice) that strong leaders exhibit, and self-knowledge about the unique talents we bring to bear in the classroom and beyond. Is the teacher rapidly improving in her performance for students?   Is the teacher leveraging his unique attributes to help drive his own and students’ success?  Is the teachers seeing an opportunity or challenge, and asking themselves how they might learn from others or innovate to find an entrepreneurial solution? This work involves readying for—and resisting—the pulls of a fixed mindset, a fear of failure/risk-taking, a “great person,” gendered or racialized archetypes of leadership, and accompanying self-doubt, or the ease of unexamined assumptions.  We aspire, as growing leaders, to have successfully led our students to achieve their goals through constant reflection and improvement and to apply their strengths and their growth mindset to new situations. This orientation manifests in a combination of mindsets like:

  • LOCUS OF CONTROL
    • healthy sense of responsibility for outcomes
    • X
  • GROWTH MINDSET
    • focus on learning over achievement,
    • and mistakes as opportunities to grow
    • X
  • ASSET-BASED
    • awareness of and leveraging of
    • strengths against challenges
    • X
  • INFORMED BOLDNESS
    • recognition of, and willingness to make, the difficult decisions that change can require

Let’s explore what these mindsets can result in in classrooms around the world:

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-44-55-pm

Reflection Questions
  • What mindsets have you prioritized in your context and why? How do you foster those key mindsets?
  • Based on what you see in your context, how would you challenge what’s here and why?

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