Changing Your Mindset for Distance Teaching (Ep. 137)

In between creating engaging content, connecting with our students, and making sure they have the tools they need, distance teaching is an incredible challenge. However, teachers everywhere are rising to meet that challenge. In today’s episode, Nic discusses what teachers everywhere are doing for their students and why a growth mindset is such an important tool right now. Full Episode Transcript Below.

Resources and Links


Nic: All right, educators. I’ve got a question for you. How many of you have a mindset board somewhere up in your room or you use these mindset words. So if someone says, I don’t understand you may say, “No, no. We ask what am I missing?” Or maybe if someone says I made a mistake. You might say, “Mistakes helped me improve.” Right? We have those boards that definitely persuade our students to think with a growth mindset. And why do we do this? Well, that’s simple because if we have a growth mindset we can feel more successful. We will continue to try, which will encourage us to be more successful. We will be able to say, we can’t do this yet, and that word yet is so strong because it means that we’re going to continue to pursue our goal. I’m going to talk to you today about distance learning and how growth mindset or mindset change can really help us be as successful as possible as we are doing distance teaching. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m your host, Nic Hahn.

The art of education has gone above and beyond to try to bring you the most relevant, most up to date information that you could possibly want or need in our new situation. I mean lots of places scrambled to do this as well. We want to make sure that we’re providing you with relevant content always, even when our world gets turned completely upside down. So the art of education has come up with a lot of different ways to provide resources and content and advice. We are focusing on this COVID-19 situation on our podcasts. We have a webinar now on Thursday nights. I mean, we’re really focusing to make sure that we are helping you prepare for what you’re being asked to do. So, I personally have been listening. I’ve tried to make sure that what I’m creating is sustainable to last for a longer time than maybe we can even see right now.

I’m trying to make my content so that it’s not going to be too hard to keep up with. I am listening to my district who is asking us to not overwhelm our students and family. Make sure that we’re paring it down to these essential so that they don’t become overwhelmed or stressed with what we are asking them to do. I’m listening to the rest of the world who’s saying, “Ask yourself what it’s like to be in a different situation?” What materials do your students have? What access do they have? What support do they have. And when I’m developing my lessons, I’m thinking about those things, making sure that I’m asking myself what materials do they have to make with, not thinking about it as my classroom when I have an array of mediums that I can provide to my students

While I’m doing all of this, I’m creating what I think is the best content possible. In fact, all of my fellow educators are doing the same thing. We’re all developing with our full heart. They asked us to change our world in one day, two days, two weeks, whatever we had for our planning time and we made it happen. We put everything online. We are there to support. We are there to give resources. We are still teaching the best we know how at this time.

I couldn’t be more proud to be an educator in this day and age. I am seeing the work and the effort that our teachers are putting in to provide the best for our students. I have talked to you a lot about my hat as an educator, as an art educator, and I’ve given you the insights of my process in the last couple of podcasts. But today I’m going to switch my hat and we’ll come back to me as an art teacher, but I want to talk to you as a parent. I have two kids. My daughter is in sixth grade and my son is in eighth grade, so I have two middle-schoolers and they have a one-to-one device, six through 12 at my district. So they have had this Chromebook access for a long time since sixth grade and they know how to use it really, really well.

So I think the middle school and high school in my districts are really set up well because they had been using this device on a regular basis. Now they are working in a room that’s on the same floor that I am working on. We’re down in the basement. We have two separate rooms, but I can hear pretty much everything that’s happening in their room and they can hear when I’m in a Zoom meeting or whatever. They can hear my voice as well. We’ve had to make some rules in the household as we’ve developed our current situation, our current solution. My husband is a teacher as well, so we came up with, with the door shut, it means that we’re in a meeting or we are recording a tutorial or we’re doing something where we need to really focus, but if we’re checking email or if we’re going through projects or doing some research to figure out what we’re going to do for our next project, the door is open. And our kids, I almost call them students, but I guess they are also our students right now can come in and ask questions anytime.

Well, my door was open about a week ago and I could hear my daughter join in on a classroom Zoom meeting. She was meeting with her math teacher, Mr. Dirks who in just open up a time every day to allow this particular hour to buzz on to Zoom or I guess we’re using Google Meet, it doesn’t matter same thing. And he can answer any questions that they are having with their math homework. Well, my daughter buzzed right on at one o’clock, 1:30 whatever the time was and I could hear her asking Mr. Dirks her question. There was only one other child in the session at the time because it is just like an open door policy if you need help, come on in. If you don’t, you don’t need to, it’s not required. And the other student left and there was Matisse and Mr. Dirks talking back and forth.

Matisse’s my daughter, sorry forgot to mention her name. Mr. Dirks was asking her if she had any other questions about math and she said, “No, no I don’t really,” but kind of lingered. And then he asked, “What are you doing today? What have you been doing? Did you go outside? Did you stay inside? What projects have you been working on?” Well, that opened up the door. Matisse brought him around and showed him the room that they have been decorating and designing for distance learning, but it’s kind of a maker space. She told them about walking her dog, the neighbor’s dog. She told them about talking with her friend Ella and just about life and it made me tear up and I’m still struggling a little bit right now because it was so powerful to hear this educator, who’s there to teach my daughter math, ask about her life and that it was exactly what she needed at the time.

This gave me a whole new perception of who I am right now. I am the teacher of 750 Hassan Elementary students, kindergarten through fifth grade, but I have to change my mindset. See we are using Seesaw and I was trying to use Google Drive for the first week. Seesaw is kindergarten through second grade and that’s a platform where students can submit their work and I can take a look at it. It is in my classroom most often a communication device between me and the families kind of sharing what’s happening in the classroom, but at this time it’s being used as a way to submit your art to the teacher or in my case not art, but any kind of homework. So we are using Seesaw for kindergarten through fifth grade and for… Or I’m sorry, kindergarten through second grade and for third through fifth grade, we’re using Schoology or Schoology, whichever way you want to say it.

My students have practiced taking a picture of their artwork and putting it into their Google Drive, just in a folder for this entire year. So I thought, well do what they know and I found out that they don’t know that really well. It was really hard for them. They couldn’t understand why they were just putting it into their Google folder. My intent was at the end of the year, we’re going to do a Google slide show, and then share that with our parents, but things have changed a little bit. So I’m just having them take a picture and put it into their drive, but they didn’t understand because how am I going to know that they did it? How am I going to know what they did and they were right, I wasn’t going to. I was going to still stick to this plan of taking the picture and later on putting all the pictures on new a Google slide, teaching them how to do that and then submitting one big project.

Well, it wasn’t sufficing and it wasn’t good enough for the students because they weren’t having the feedback that they were so desiring. So instead my team, my specialist team, math or I’m sorry, Phi ed and music and media, we decided as a team actually they were already doing it. They were using Flipgrid and I thought, you know what? If you three are using Flipgrid, I’m going to use it too because they’re going to understand and know this format. Flipgrid is free too, we’ll put a link with this podcast as well. But Flipgrid is a way that students can leave a video response to a prompt. And so, it’s very similar to Seesaw, which most kids had used in their younger years and they’re familiar with it because they’re using it in other classes. Well, here’s the deal. The students have loved sharing what they’re making both on Seesaw and in Flipgrid.

They hold it up, they show me, they tell me about it. They are excited to share what they made and some students are even given me little messages like, “Hey Ms. Hahn, I hope you’re being well or feeling well.” “Hey Ms. Hahn, just remember to go out for a nature walk,” I got told by one of the students. I have changed my role completely, where I had focused before in making these amazing lessons and making sure that it’s good, great content and it’s going to fill the needs of my administration and the standards and I’m still doing all that, I really am. But in my mindset change my shift, I am a teacher second and a cheerleader first. I’ve decided that students need me to celebrate what they’re making, the hard work that they’re putting in, even if it’s not really that hard work. I’ve decided that responding to students with a message, a personalized message is more important than just giving them a thumbs up or putting it into my grade book.

I’ve shifted my brain to not think about the 750 students that I have to respond to, but instead thinking about the 750 faces I get to respond to. This has made all the difference in my day to day practice. I come downstairs, I start at my time, my scheduled, I call it office hours, so I’m available per our schools request available to students from nine until 11, and then again from one until three. So during those times I’m looking at Seesaw, I’m looking at Flipgrid, I’m looking at my emails and I’m responding. When a student writes to me or post something, I’m writing something back, giving them some heartfelt feedback, and then asking about their day. I’m thinking about what Mr. Dirks provided for my daughter and I’m trying to provide that for my students. Here’s the result you guys, I’m getting to know this mass amount of students that I’ve been teaching for years and years in whole different way.

They’re sharing their personality. They’re having 45 seconds of conversation with me one way where I don’t interrupt them. They tell me what they want to tell me. It has been so enlightening and I keep thinking, I’m just at the beginning of this. I have weeks to get to know my students on this whole different level. Changing my mindset to being a cheerleader, being this responder, celebrating their work has made it so that I have something to look forward to. I get to see and hear from my students on a regular basis and it couldn’t make me more happy.

As we continue down this distance learning path, I hope that you are able to change your mindset if necessary. If you are sitting there becoming frustrated because students are not doing your lessons that you’ve worked hours on to provide for them, or you’re becoming frustrated with just sitting on the computer all the time instead of being that encourager of young artists and making sure that the content is spectacular for them and making sure that they have a wonderful experience in your art room. If you’re becoming frustrated with not being that role that you signed up to be, change your mindset. Who are you now? Well, you’re a cheerleader for the young humans that you teach, you are trying to be there when they need you. You are trying to be supportive and encouraging for life. Let’s keep our mindset positive and focused on what really matters and that’s our students.

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.