In my years as an educator, I have been exposed to a variety of schools, educators, and students, and I have participated in many training session related to the development of the mind and how people learn, as a result of these experiences, I have developed several guiding principles, the most salient of which are:
1. Effort creates aptitude.
2. Challenging & changing beliefs lead to changes in practice.
3. You must capture one’s heart before you can capture one’s mind.
Regarding the relationship between effort and aptitude, I developed this belief because of my experiences dealing with personal challenges. However, these ideas were validated and made more relevant to my career as an educator when I read the book Mindset Matters by Carol Dweck. Dweck’s presentation on mindsets reveals that beyond intelligence, the type of mindset one has (i.e., fixed or growth) impacts personality development. She asserts that people with fixed mindsets believe that they are what they are and cannot change. They want to be praised and not challenged. Those with growth mindsets want to get better and are accepting of people who point out their shortcomings. Not only has this profound perspective changed how I respond to my family and friends, but it has also shaped the way I view challenges and how I work with students and adults that are apprehensive about change and growth. From the understanding of the growth mindset, I have come to understand that directed effort, and proper feedback open the door for anyone to learn and achieve and that a fixed mindset can limit dramatically one’s ability to learn and achieve.
I began adhering to the second principle about the impact of challenging and changing beliefs once I transitioned from being a classroom teacher to serving as an instructional coach. The training I received to support my development in that position, especially the work of Jim Knight, has been very influential. In his research on coaching, Knight emphasizes principles of a partnership approach to working with educators in their development. In his book, Instructional Coaching, he presents the metaphor of how good ideas and practices should spread like a virus. For a virus to spread, it must be strong and easily transmittable. Therefore, a teacher or learner must clearly see that the idea or practice introduced by an instructional coach is a stronger practice than their current one, and the new idea or practice has to be presented in a way that could be easily adopted by the teacher. Knowing this has forever changed my approach to presenting ideas and developing others. Finally, the last principle emanates from my experience with students in the classroom. I noticed that children responded to me better and achieved more when they realized that I was concerned about them. Flip Flippen’s work and research on Capturing Kids’ Hearts solidified my beliefs in the validity of this approach to teaching children and leading educators. This work has validated my experiences and has forced me to endeavor to foster respectful and healthy relationships when helping others develop professionally.
These three basic principles have guided my decision-making and professional activities in both current and past experiences. As I continue to further my career, I aim to establish environments in which all students can realize their unmet potential for success. With these principles in hand, my aim is to influence other educators with my motto “We foster lifelong learning and curiosity in adult learners of tomorrow by helping the adult learners of today.”