The Teaching Mindset - ETCSINES

The Teaching Mindset - ETCSINES


A simple description of mindset is the way we think about ourselves, the things we can do or can not do and how they affect the people we come in contact with. Taking it further, this relates to the boundaries we set for ourselves, the standards we choose to observe and the value we attach to what we do.

A teaching mindsets therefore resonates around the personality of the teacher, the value attached to teaching and the importance the teacher attaches to the success of the student. World-renowned Stanford University psychologist, Dr. Dweck suggests that there are only two 
types of mindsets in this world. The fixed-mindset and the growth-mindset. In her book, she writes about the difference between fixed-mindset teachers and growth-mindset teachers. 

In her research, Dr. Dweck found that "Fixed-mindset teachers often think of themselves as finished products. Their role is simply to impart their knowledge. But doesn't that get boring year after year? Standing before yet another crowd of faces and imparting. Now that's hard." In contrast, Dr. Dweck found that "... human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort." This is what she refers to as the growth-mindset. Dr. Dweck believes that "In this mindset, the hand you're dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth-mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts."

It will be an understatement to state that the Nigerian administrators and policy makers in the education industry have really devalued the personality of the Nigerian teacher, they have devastated the pysche of the teacher by low income, lack of relevant teaching aids, scarcity of training and developmental programs to mention a few. We are therefore talking about a teacher who against all odds will maintain a sane mind and be a 
great teacher to his or her students. All students need to be challenged and nurtured. Below are some examples of what some teachers have said to students who are reluctant to participate in learning;

"We have work to do. You can't just sit in a seat and grow smart ... I promise, you are going to do, and you are going to produce. I am not going to let you fail." "None of you has ever failed. School may have failed you, but you have never failed. However, you must help me to help you. If you don't give anything, don't expect anything. Success is not coming to you, you must come to it."

It has been said that "A good teacher is one who continues to learn along with the students." It has been discovered that some people become extraordinary teachers because theyare not interesting in teaching, but are interested in learning." It is natural that sometimes educational authorities direct teachers to incorporate something into 
their instruction to students that they might not necessarily understand or know how to teach or they might just indicate that they expect an improved performance from the teacher and the students.

At best the teacher might get a short professional development session on the topic, and then there is an expectation to implement the content with little to no further support. When put into these types of situations, teachers have a choice: the more challenging “figure out how to make it work” approach, or the more easily abandoned “this is an obstacle I don’t want to overcome” 
method. Which path will be chosen?

This scenario represents two types of mindsets found in teachers and in schools, with adults and with students. More and more, teachers are being asked to not only support the growth mindset of their learners, but also explicitly teach the associated skills which are vital for living but are not provided with any guide or reference which the teacher can learn from. The teacher therefore has a duty to excel and become as much as possible a great teacher. I will mention just a few methods that can help the teacher improve and develop a growth mindset.

1. A teacher can teach by storytelling and especially about his or her personal experience with an emphasis on the fixed/ stagnant or growth mindset. A student might better grasp what we mean by fixed/ stagnant vs. growth mindset through your example.

2. A teacher can also be reflective about his or her own role in the ups and downs of the classroom and in the life of the students. The teacher should make himself or herself responsible for the success and failure of the students.

3. A teacher can also share personal setbacks and failures. By being transparent with learners about the growth experienced, teachers can help the students see how challenging acquiring knowledge and developing skills can be.

4. The teacher can actively and deliberately learn something new for a period of time and discuss the process with the students. The teacher can then parallel the personal experience with that of the students and model the next-step process for them through decisions taken?

5. A teacher can also seek feedback from colleagues. Invite them in to give you feedback, go over your teaching style and the experience in the classroom, and show students that adults need and want to get better at what they do in their jobs.

6. The teacher can demonstrate the importance of building relationships. We all get derailed from time to time. Who is your support team for getting back on track? This doesn’t need to be a secret from the students. The teacher needs to show them just how important friends that make you accountable are to your growth. Mindset matters in the classroom. If the teacher believe that students can grow, and is able to model that he or she too is continuously growing, the teacher will relate better to the students when they struggle, and be their champion when they succeed. The teacher needs to show students that you are in this together — learning, reflecting, and deepening your collective understanding of how to overcome challenges in and out of the classroom.

I will conclude by mentioning Four important Teacher Mindsets
1. I belong in this professional community
If the teacher does not think that he belongs in the hallway, the classroom, the school, the state, or as a esteemed and important member of the ranks of the noble, professional teachers then he is bound to experience one of the following;
The teacher will isolate himself or herself. The teacher will stop looking for fellow professionals who are doing things better.
The teacher will view the professional literature as optional, rather than a regular source of needed nutrition. The teacher won't take pride in the school or its community, and therefore you won't call forth the best work.

2. My ability and competence can improve with my effort.
If the teacher view himself or herself as having either no room for improvement (“I've arrived”) or no means through which to improve (“I am what I am; I'm just bad at X”), then they won't improve. 

3. I can succeed as a teacher.
First, the teacher must define success sanely — not as simple test score movement, but as the promotion of the long-term flourishing of the students. That is the single, enduring standard.

4. This work matters.
If the teacher has stopped believing that what is done in the classroom is pregnant with impact potential, the teacher either has to get to a place where he can believe again or just leave the profession. It is easy sometimes to get to a place of apathy because of some of the institutional challenges I highlighted earlier, and the teacher will just simply stop trying.

In conclusion, the failure or success of the students is seriously linked to the mindset of the teacher and how well the teacher can strive to overcome the prevalent challenges and help the student succeed. A mediocre teacher will produce an high number of mediocre students while a great teacher will certainly produce good students and an high number of great students. 

Thank you for your time.

Writer: Tola Arowomo

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