Posts Tagged ‘teacher education’
A flexible and risk-taking mindset rather than a fixed one will benefit all stakeholders in an educator’s realm: the educator’s learners, colleagues, her or his learners’ families, the community, the field of education-at-large, and of course, the educator him-or herself.
Mindset is defined as “a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindset)
Given today’s climate in education systems, one based on accountability, scripted curriculum, and teaching to the teach, far too many teachers develop a fixed mindset. Many educators feel forced into a paradigm of teaching where they feel subjected to teaching practices outside of their control. Then when they are asked to engage in a process of continued growth and development, many profess: “I don’t have enough time.”, “I don’t have enough resources.”, “I need more training.”, “I need to teach using the textbook.” ,”I need to teach to the test.”, “I might lose control of the class.”, “I have always successful taught this way.”
What happens way too often is that given these restraints, educators develop feelings of powerless and of learned helplessness. This leads to developing beliefs that they have no freedom to take risks nor to try out new things in their classrooms. Sadly, though, this becomes an over-generalization.
It is a myth that we operate under a set of oppressive bureaucratic constraints. In reality, teachers have a great deal of autonomy in the work they chose to do in their classrooms. In most cases it is our culture that provides the constraints. For individual teachers, trying out new practices and pedagogy is risky business and both our culture, and our reliance on hierarchy, provide the ideal barriers for change not to occur. As Pogo pointed out long ago, “we have met the enemy and it is us.” http://www.cea-ace.ca/blog/brian-harrison/2013/09/5/stop-asking-permission-change
Instead of this type of fixed and paralyzing mindset, educators should focus on having a flexible and risk-taking mindset. I know that these qualities can be part of a growth mindset which is usually discussed in terms of a growth vs. a fixed mindset. I wanted, though, something specific to educators that signifies their willingness to keep evolving and building their professional skills.
What follows are some strategies educators can use to develop, further develop, and maintain a flexible and risk-taking mindset:
- Develop an awareness when you enter the status quo and mediocrity complacency. Recognize it. Revisit it often. Talk about it. Shake yourself out of it in any way possible! Interestingly, Mr. C. discussed this in a very recent blog post.
I developed an “If it ain’t broke why fix it” attitude. By being comfortable and satisfied with the status quo had I stopped learning, innovating, moving forward…being successful? (Does the Status Quo Make you Comfortable?)
- Engage in continuous reflective practice. As I discussed in Where is reflection in the learning process?, educators need to be engaged in ongoing reflective practice to stay fresh and invigorated, and to insure that your actions in the learning environment are done with intentionality.
The critically reflective habit confers a deeper benefit than that of procedural utility. It grounds not only our actions, but also our sense of who we are as teachers in an examined reality. We know why we believe what we believe. A critically reflective teacher is much better placed to communicate to colleagues and students (as well as to herself) the rationale behind her practice. She works from a position of informed commitment. She knows why she does and thinks, what she does and thinks. Stephen Brookfield
- Establish both face-to-face and online personal/professional learning networks with other educators and other professionals, ones who try to live their professional lives with a flexible and risk-taking mindset.
- Try and learn new things in the classroom modeling taking risks and being a lead learner. As A.J. Juliani notes in 10 Risks Every Teacher Should Take With Their Class:
As I work with students and teachers there is one common thread that the “stand-out” classrooms share: They take risks. Not only do these students and teachers take learning risks, but they also take them together. They are partners in the learning process, where the teacher is the “lead learner”. A.J. Juliani
- Attend conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities outside of your comfort area . . . way outside of your comfort zone.
The bottom line becomes focusing on what can work rather than what is not working. This is not to devalue the obstacles that teachers face. It becomes about noting where change is possible and making some small changes in teaching. Small changes often result in larger, more systemic change.
. . . and sometimes having a flexible and risk-taking mindsets makes an educator an outlier educator in his or her school environment and it takes courage to be an outlier educator.
Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn. Alice Miller
I have a fitness teacher. She knows fitness, she knows how the body works. She knows how to break down the exercises and how to teach them. What she doesn’t know is each participant’s body. She assumes she knows what is best for all of the students. In other words, she lacks empathy for those in her class. Some tolerate her, others do not go to her class because of her lack of empathy for her students. But these are adults, children in public school education do not have such a choice. So this post is a call to action to highlight and become intentional in bringing teacher empathy into the classroom.
What is Empathy?
Daniel Pink in a Whole New Mind describes empathy:
Empathy isn’t sympathy- that is, feeling bad for someone else. It is feeling with someone else, sensing what it would be like to be that person Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling—to stand in their shoes, to see with their eyes, to feel with their hearts—it is a stunning act of imaginative derring-do, the ultimate virtual reality, climbing into another’s mind to experience the world from that person’s perspective.
A Rationale for Empathy
Given all the pressures placed upon teachers in today’s schools, I think, not necessarily due to all of fault of their own, some educators overlook the reverence they should take in relating to and interacting with their learners. Jonathan Kozol in Ordinary Resurrections so beautifully stated:
Good teachers don’t approach a child with overzealousness or with destructive conscientiousness. They’re not drill-masters in the military or floor managers in a production system. They are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don’t yet know what’s in the box. They don’t know if it’s breakable.
. . . and . . .
Human beings are precious. Their values, thoughts and independence are very important to them. When dealing with another person one has to know that one is “walking on holy ground.” Defining empathy skills in practice – Carl Rogers and unconditional regard
Empathy for one’s students should be a top concern of educators and intentionally used as a primary instructional strategy.
Empathy and the Educator as a Design Thinker
Given the recent popularity of design thinker, some educators are looking at and proposing that educators using design thinking to design the learning experiences in this classrooms. As Grant Wiggins notes in Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking:
The learning is the center of our world, not the teaching. And until we see that we are in the business of designing and causing learning instead of merely in the business of teaching, we will fail to cause optimal learning. Great care has been given to thinking through the goal of the learning and the conditions that have to be in place if optimal engagement and active learning, in a group of diverse students, is to occur.
Many describe empathy as the first step of effective design thinking. “One of the core principles of design thinking is its focus on human values at every stage of the process. And empathy for the people for whom you’re designing is fundamental to this process” What is Design Thinking?
I would go as far as saying that empathy is necessary for designing all facets of teaching: setting up the classroom, selecting curriculum, choosing and implementing classroom management strategies, and teaching each individual learner as unique individuals.
Benefits of Empathy in Teaching and Learning
Finally in terms of benefits to teaching, learning and the classroom environment, empathy is a necessary precursor in order for the following to develop:
- Foundation of the teacher-student relationship: With educator empathy, the learner feels as though the educator has a genuine interest in and really understands him-her.
- Individualized, differentiated, and personalized education: There is absolutely no way an educator can tailor instruction to the meet their learners’ needs, interests, desires without empathy.
- Meeting the social emotional needs of the students: “Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors” (Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning).
- Modeling empathy to increase empathy by the learners: When educators walk the talk of empathy, students can see empathy in action and develop those skills for themselves. ‘Ultimately, creating empathy comes down to leading children by example. “We have to model what we want them to do”‘ (Creating Empathy in the Classroom).
Educators inherently know that empathy is important to the operation of their classrooms and the success of their students. Educators must meet the needs of each of their students, no matter their background. At the core of this educational mission is the teacher’s ability to empathize with these students, moving beyond the teacher’s perspective to those of the children he or she encounters. Beyond this there is also the argument that empathy itself should be a goal of education; students should leave the classroom or school environment equipped with skills to build meaningful relationships with their peers (Empathy in the Classroom)