- Your mindset is a choice.
- If you believe your day will be good, then your mindset and attitude will mirror this.
- Choose to focus on your W.H.Y. and agree to make the adjustments needed to hold on to a positive mindset each and every day.
- Face your current reality, flip it with positivity, commit to habits that will support both you and others, and revisit your W.H.Y. routinely to remain grounded in truth.
Positive Mindset: Is your educational reality grounded in truth?
I know what you are thinking. There are so many what-ifs swimming through your mind every second of the day, but I urge you to stop…take a breath…and remember why you chose teaching as a profession. We are up against our most difficult challenge to date in education. Without remembering why we do what we do, we will not be able to focus on the what and the how of teaching and learning.
Dig deep and I challenge each person reading this month’s blog to take out a pen and a piece of paper and write down your why. Think back to where it all began and answer this question: What were you doing when you realized that teaching was the gift you were destined to offer to the world?Think back to where it all began and answer this question: What were you doing when you realized that teaching was the gift you were destined to offer to the world? Click To Tweet
Looking back on my educational destiny…
For me, I was working towards a degree in Nursing. I had taken most of the prerequisite classes and was awaiting my acceptance letter to the Baptist School of Nursing in Tennessee when my sister suggested that I consider becoming a substitute teacher a couple of days a week. I’ll admit that at first, I thought she was out of her mind. I was absolutely not cut out to teach. I was going to work to save lives. That is what I was meant to do.
Although, I thought this was going to be my reality. I had been over to my sister’s school many times and loved the family environment and collaborative nature of the staff. Therefore, I went ahead and gave substitute teaching a try. Admittedly, I instantly felt at home the moment students entered the classroom. It all came so natural to me. The rest was history. Here I am twenty-four years later, and it still brings me chills on the first day of school when students enter the building. As you continue to work through the most difficult year that we have had in education to date, keep this quote by Franklin Roosevelt in mind: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
Are you intentional about the practices you use to build our youth?
To ensure our children are prepared, you have probably been bombarded with mandate after mandate. With so many demands being placed on your time, it can be overwhelming and tempting to stop trying altogether. When these types of feelings begin to creep into your head, stop and remember why you chose education in the first place. Hold on to this thought, write it down, and post it in a prominent place in your classroom or home so that you will be forced to reread and revisit it often. This will keep you grounded, focused, and fill you with the energy needed to fulfill all requests needed to properly prepare for teaching and learning.
Positive Mindset: What you focus on influences your reality.
You may be wondering why I asked you to write down your why. The truth is what you focus on influences your reality or mindset. Mindset is the perception of your reality. Throughout the day, when I visit classrooms, I take snapshots of learning moments. The reason behind this is two-fold. The first is that by intentionally looking for those aha moments and powerful learning outcomes, I am choosing to focus on the “good.” The second is that I have added swiping through my phone and revisiting the joyous moments that I captured as a part of my routine each night before I go to sleep. Reliving those positive points within my day keep me centered around positivity and truth.
Positive Mindset: Choose to focus on your “W.H.Y.”
W = Willingness to Use Your Gifts Without Ceasing
It will not happen overnight, but as a good friend, Lindsay Titus reminds us often that there is no such thing as a work-life balance. She says we need to seek a blended life where both our work and personal life are intertwined and made a priority when needed. With all that is being asked of you at work, you can easily become entrenched in the hamster wheel of education and work so hard that you push all other aspects of your life to the side. Teaching is the gift that you have been given to share with the world. It should not be an all-consuming flame. If you let it continue to burn without taking time to replenish, you may burn out.
Educators spend so much time thinking about the needs of others. After all, this is our gift. If you are like most educators, you pride yourself with using your gifts without ceasing. This year, more than any other, I have begun to feel more and more guilt when considering taking a break or just stepping away from work for a small amount of time. Why is that?
To begin balancing the scales, consider the following questions:
- What is it about our profession that causes us to believe it is not okay to take care of ourselves?
- What is your outlook on caring for others?
- Do you find it hard to say no when people ask for help?
- What strategies are you currently using to balance your load?
To help combat this and form habits of self-care, enlist a friend to hold you accountable for taking care of yourself. Ultimately, maintaining a blend between your professional and personal obligation will help you keep a positive mindset and support those who need you most.
H = Habits Help Us Decompress and Sustain Supporting Others
Merriam-Webster (2011) defines a habit as a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior. Routines and habits create environments for reliability. We all crave normality and habits lend themselves to just that. Additionally, adopting positive habits has so many benefits, including assisting with goal attainment and aiding in supporting the growth and development of others. This leads you towards the person you want to be and breeds an optimistic outlook in both your personal and professional life. Reflect on the habits you and your students have formed this school year. A quote that helps me reflect says “you’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine” (Maxwell, 2004, as cited by Tew, 2015). Are they helping or hindering the improvement of student achievement and moving you closer to achieving your personal goals?
Y = Your Life Outside of Work Is Important Too
You became a teacher because you have a servant heart. Your willingness to serve others is both a gift and a curse. Don’t ever feel guilty about doing things for yourself. You give so much to everyone around you each day. Therefore, it is essential that you take time to unplug, decompress, rest your mind, and revitalize your energy. My advice is to take out your calendar and plug in reminders for self-care, catching up with friends, and spending time with family. Schedule a hard stop time when working, so that you leave enough time in your day to enjoy a little time to play.
As educators, we spend our life planning and preparing for deadlines, instruction, and exciting learning experiences for our students. If you are like me, you are bound by these dates and work feverishly to meet each expectation on your to do list. You are accomplishing everything you focus on. Shifting your focus to “self” will require intentional planning. Why not add one self-care related item to your current list of obligations. Go on, try it for a couple of weeks or 21-days to see if it becomes habit-forming.[scroll down to keep reading]
Maintaining and Sustaining a Positive Mindset
To sustain our level of productivity throughout this school year, it is increasingly important to ground our reality in truth and maintain a positive mindset. Keep a pulse on your willingness to work without ceasing. Our brains need a break. Remember to schedule “no think” time to rejuvenate and refresh. One way to do this is to build habits meant to aid in the process of decompressing. Lastly, resist the urge of feeling guilty when stopping to enjoy life outside of work.
In order to successfully support the growth and progress of others, we must tend to our own needs. Your mindset is a choice. If you believe your day will be good, then your mindset and attitude will mirror this. Choose to focus on your W.H.Y. and agree to make the adjustments needed to hold on to a positive attitude each and every day (Maxwell, 2004). Face your current reality, flip it with positivity, commit to habits that will support both you and others, and revisit your W.H.Y. routinely to remain grounded in truth.
Fowler-White, J. (2021). Maintaining Your Mindset when facing the Unknown.
“habit.”(2011). Merriam-Webster.com. https://www.merriam-webster.com
Maxwell, J. (2004). Make Today Count: The Secret of Your Success is Determined By Your Daily Agenda.
Tew, R. (2015). You’ll Never Change Your Life Until You.
About Jami Fowler-White
Jami Fowler-White is the founder and CEO of Digital PD 4 You, LLC and co-creator of the Ignite Leadership Summit. Over the past two decades, she has served in many capacities in education which include ten years as a classroom teacher, ten years as an Instructional Coach, and a Core Advocate with Achieve the Core.
She currently mentors First-time and Renewal candidates for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and is a charter member of the National Board Network of Minoritized Educators and Black Women Education Leaders, Incorporated. Additionally, Mrs. Fowler-White is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and is currently serving as a Principal in Shelby County Schools (TN).
Fowler-White also provides professional development under the umbrella of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and Digital PD 4 You for schools and districts. She is the author/coauthor of several books including, Educator Reflection Tips, Volume #1, EduMatch’s Snapshot in Education 2020: Remote Learning Edition, The Skin You are In: Colorism in the Black Community, 2nd Edition, and Educator Reflection Tips, Volume II: Refining our Practice. Jami blogs at DigitalPD4You.com , has a bi-monthly leadership blog on Insight Advance, and writes a monthly blog entitled the Better Mindset on TeachBetter.com. She invites you to connect with her on Twitter at @JjJj821 and on the Digital PD 4 You Facebook page.