A Mindset Shift for Yourself (Ep. 142)

Within this new normal, it can be difficult to keep yourself in a growth mindset or in a positive mindset. In today’s episode, Nic shares some strategies on how she shifts her mindset, why we need to continue to challenge ourselves, and how we can deal with the difficulties that come our way. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: How many of you have that fixed mindset versus the growth mindset poster in your classroom? I think a lot of times we display that for our students, of course, but sometimes don’t you think we put it up there just to remind ourselves how to stay on that growth mindset? Today we are going to talk about how to keep a growth mindset or a positive mindset even with our new normal. I’m Nic Hahn, and this is Everyday Art Room.

We did not have a choice for this, shall we call it opportunity, to teach students at home. For many of us, we’ve been doing this for a couple of months now, and we were asked to go online in a day or days. A classroom that we have been teaching for years in the same way, setting it up the same way, teaching our kids in the same way, and boom, shifted in just a few days. I found myself truly battling between growth mindset and fixed mindset. Anyone else relate?

Once in a while I’d get up and I’d be like, yes, I’ve got this. I’m learning so much in this at home digital learning. I’m just excited about all the knowledge I have from learning how to do this. And then the next morning or minute, I would wake up and say, I give up. No one cares. I’m working so hard and it’s not making a difference. I would sit and do this teeter-totter back and forth for the last couple of months now. We were warned of this, man.

I interviewed Kit Lang and Zoe Coughlan at the very beginning of Minnesota’s stay at home order. And they said you’re going to have these positive moments and you’re going to definitely fall into a puddle, and they were right. I’m doing the best I can, but I am definitely teeter-tottering. In reality, this is the sway going back and forth is really part of my life of all times. I’m thinking about it more right now because I’m staying at home. But when I think about it, and really concentrate on it, I might have had those same thoughts in the past.

Some days, I’ll go to school and I’ll think, man, this is my perfect job. I just can’t imagine doing anything else. I love teaching these students, I love what this looks like and what my life looks like. It’s everything I had ever dreamed of. And the very next day something will happen and I’ll think, is this the profession that I really want to be in? Do I want to be in the politics of trying to strike for my paycheck and in the public’s eye all the time and sometimes in a negative way? Is that what I really want in my life? So I’ll sway back and forth.

When I’m feeling low right now, and yes, it happens, definitely, I’m asking myself what I am feeling and why. Then I try to identify whether this is a fixed mindset or if I can reframe it to be a growth mindset. Yep. This is the same tactics I use for my students when they are melting down, and they say, I can’t do this. I will never. It’s never going to work. I’m never going to be as good as you. The same things that I put into their brain or my children’s brains, I’m using on myself. And I guess I always have. Maybe this has been a practice, but I’m taking more time to reflect on this right now. So I asked myself, how can I reframe the situation right now so that I can stay more positive in my life?

Let me give you an example. I’m not getting work from 50% of my students, at least. I have over 700 students and I will be lucky to say at the end of this that I received artwork from 50% of them. That number just makes me sick. Like it makes me so sad. And I think why am I even doing this? What is the purpose? This is so much work. Why am I doing this When I’ve only seen a few kids turn this in? Then I change my mindset. Okay, that was definitely fixed, the why and the, I don’t know, the little mini temper tantrum that I just threw. I have to change it. In fact, it was so fixed that I was getting mad at myself for acting that way. It was a little bit embarrassing. And my husband, well, he was pretty much over it as well.

So what are the words that I’m hearing from myself? And how can I change them? Well, I could say, I’m getting 50% participation in what I’m putting out there. Okay, that’s a little bit of a stretch. But really even just changing the tone, that half full, half empty glass type of thing, I have 50% students participating. Okay, that’s a start, right? Then I think, well, if I really want to shift this, who am I creating these lessons for? I’m creating these lessons for my artists, for the makers that come into my classroom, for the kids who really like to get off the computer and use their hands, or maybe get on the computer and use it for creation, rather than consumption.

I’m doing it for them. And guess what guys, they deserve every minute I’m putting into those lessons for them. That brings me to recognize the fact that these students, I’m getting to know them in a whole different way. So the 50% that are turning in their work and doing a real quality job, that might be a little bit lower, but the ones that are really doing that quality job, I’m able to give 100% attention to. I see what they’re making. I am putting 0% into classroom management. So they are getting my all. They’re getting me. The students who really want it and need it. And that is motivating them and it’s motivating me to continue, because I know that they need what I’m providing.

Here’s another one. I don’t want to be on camera. Let’s say that that’s your hang up. I don’t want to be on camera. I don’t want to share my content. I’m nervous to share it with the parents. I feel stupid around technology. Maybe these are the words that you’re hearing from yourself. This actually has happened recently. I hate this machine. I don’t know why I have to use it. I hate these platforms. I see everybody using this platform instead of this one that we have to use. I hate it. I want to stop teaching this way. Again, another minor temper tantrum.

Shifting my mind is super important in this regards because I am signed up to do this for another couple of weeks. I don’t want to sit in that negative pout fest that I just described. So how do I do this in the classroom? We have the same challenges or different challenges, but definitely challenges in our classroom. Let’s talk about our budgets, just our budgets in general. How many of you have an amazing budget? Raise your hand? Okay. I see you in the back. That’s awesome. We’re very happy for you. But nobody else here has a quality budget. That is our reality. And so yes, we might ask for help, we might reach out and see if someone can help us with our budget, which you might do with your technology, you might reach out for help.

Otherwise, we try to say, all right, what is it that I do have? How can I make this work for me? How can I make it work for my students? And not really concentrate on what doesn’t work, but what does work and how can I make it work better? And then finding those resources, asking for help, looking online, finding a way to make what you have the most successful that you can. That’s what we do in our classroom. If all we have is a donation of 1,000 toilet paper tubes, we go online and look for a lesson that’s going to work for that. That’s what we do. Why would this be any different? Research what you need, find it and make it better. You can do that.

One of the biggest mindset qualities that I see on those posters that like stand out to me is giving up easily or avoiding challenges. This is one that I have actually overcome. And I will say that I have overcome the avoiding challenges. I continue to face them. And because I’ve faced them so often, I practice and practice and get better at it. I’ve been blogging for 10 years now. 2010 I started my blog. Guess what? I’m dyslexic. This is a super hard thing to do when you are dyslexic. But I have so much that I want to share. And in order to do that, I learned very early on that I need to write, I need to create something that I can share with other people. So I started writing my blog.

Well, let me share a little quarantine situation that maybe should stop me in my tracks and maybe shut me down from sharing forever. Every spring, we have this art show as district art teachers. And there’s about 20 of us and we choose 2 pieces of artwork from our students and we ask them if it’s okay if we display them. We take a photograph of it, reprint it out and we have it hanging in the district office. Then we have this great celebration. We pack the house with families for school board meeting. We give them a nice certificate, the artwork is displayed. It is tremendous and the best attended school board meeting of the year, of course. That was supposed to happen this month in May and we cannot gather in the same way.

So what we’re doing instead is making a digital alternative for right now. What we’re doing is we are taking the photo of the art and the photo of a student, putting them on a slideshow, we’ll make a video that we can send out and really, this might go farther than the celebration would. Right? Our families that are celebrating the art will always know about that school board meeting and that certificate. But now when we share it digitally, it’s going to go out to so many more people. So okay, we did a mind shift right there. How can we still celebrate our artists? But I went a step further.

We had to request a picture from our students. So I emailed the families of my students that I chose, and then I CC’d my administration on there so that she could see that this was happening. And I wrote it up. And because of my dyslexia, I played it back to myself. So what I do is I highlight all the words, and then I have it read out loud to me as I follow along. I make my adjustments. And then when I do that two, three, four or five times, I feel safe that, yes, I can go ahead and submit this to the people that I’m intending to share it with.

Well, I did that. And then I thought, you know what, all of the art teachers in our district are doing the same thing. So what I’m going to do is copy and paste this, send it to them, so that they can just use it for their communication as well. Well, I asked if they would share one of their pictures with me. Instead of writing share, S-H-A-R-E, I wrote shart, S-H-A-R-T. I asked them if they would shart a photo of their student with me. Yeah. And then I shared that with everybody so that they could ask their students to share a picture with them. Oh, my gosh.

Luckily, I have an administration who is able to laugh at something like that. I didn’t even acknowledge it with the parents. I just kind of let that die. But when I sent it out to the rest of the art teachers, one of the teachers texted me later that day and said, hey, are you aware that you did this? Now, yeah, you know what, this should shut me up. This is super embarrassing. But to be honest, It’s something that happens to me on a really regular basis. See, I guess it doesn’t bother me as much because I have practiced that embarrassment over and over and over in my life.

I don’t really think that’s what growth mindset is all about, is practicing how to be embarrassed. I think it was intended for other things. But I don’t know, maybe it’s a good thing. I make mistakes. I learn from them. And I try my best. I guess I try my best. That’s the bottom line. Is like, I keep trying my best. And I’m going to continue to share with my co-workers and families because that is what I’m all about.

Here is one more example of a mind shift. In a fixed mind set, we think of feedback and criticism as a personal attack. And yeah, I suppose sometimes those comments do read as a personal attack. But there’s some questions to ask yourself. How are you reading them? What mindset are you in when you’re reading it? Because these are just words on a computer. They have no inflection behind them. So how are you reading them? Are you reading them as an attack on yourself? Is there a way that you could shift this in the tone that you read it in? And then also, is there a way to reach out to that person that’s giving you the feedback? Maybe reaching out to them on the internet and then asking them Why? Why they wrote that, what they meant. You might be surprised of what you find out.

With growth mindset, if you start inquiring what the feedback was really about, you might be surprised. I have an example of this. I had a parent write me a huge email, and I read it right before I went to bed, and it seemed to be very attacking of how much work I’m putting on the kids and how this is so difficult. I read it and I literally shut my computer down. I pouted for a few minutes. My shoulders were slumped. Tears were in my eyes and I thought, I’m done with this. I’m going to bed. I am a person who loves sleep. I love it, love it, love it, love it. I love it so very much. Because what it does is heal my soul and brain mostly.

As I rested, my brain problem-solving. I’d like to think that maybe I was just born with this brain that fixed itself over the night, or maybe it’s because I’ve practice growth mindset so much that my soul allows me to problem solve as I sleep. So maybe it’s because of the practice of my mind shift that I was able to wake up the next morning and come up with a new plan. What I did was email that parent back. And instead of trying to respond to what she was writing me, I requested a Google Meet.

In our meeting, I could see that she was overwhelmed. I could feel how defeated she was with the technology that she was using with her student. I could see that she considered herself and her profession and should consider herself to be a very intelligent person. She is a very educated person. And so she was just feeling overwhelmed and maybe belittled by this problem solving that she wasn’t able to figure out. This was for a third grader and she as an adult couldn’t figure it out. And that is no comment against her by any means.

I listened to her and then I decided, okay, show me what you’re seeing. So she was able to share her screen and I was able to see, you know what, she doesn’t have what I have on my computer. As a student view, it didn’t look the same. So I was able to tell her, my goodness, you taught me something right here. And she was able to let go of that defeated feeling and say, there was some reasons that we were having a hard time, and now we can work together. I truly used her feedback to be a better person.

Shifting my mindset is not something that is always there, I have to remind myself on a regular basis. Again, maybe that’s why we have those posters in our classroom. It might be a reminder for ourselves as much as for our students. Sometimes I have to sleep just to reboot. Sometimes I just have to work walk myself through those questions. How can I shift my mindset? How am I looking at it right now? And what are the different questions that I can change to be more positive?

Mindset is something I think AOEU is really good at. When I’m in a meeting with any of the staff members of the AOE University team, I have never seen it go down a negative path. And if it does start to go down that path, I see someone, another team member at all times and this person shifts. It’s not always the same person, but someone brings us back to a positive conversation or a positive way to look at it. They shift our mindset. I appreciate that so much with AOEU.

If you are having a hard time with your mindset right now, I hope that you can look at the resources we have for you, because that is what we are trying to project into the world. We are not trying to ignore the hardships or the challenges that we have in our profession, but along with those hardships and our challenges, we come up with solutions. So utilize The Art of Education University’s website. Check it out. If you are having a hard time, use us as a resource to try to fix your mindset moving forward.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.