As summer break comes to a close, teachers put in lots of hours, days, and sweat equity to prepare for welcoming the newest group of students. One would be hard pressed to find a teacher that checked out on the last day of school and has had nary a thought of teaching before returning for that first teacher work day of the new school year. Whether courses have been taken, new grade level or subject curriculums tackled, workshops attended, technology mastered, innovative methods explored, etc., one of the most effective methods for kicking off the school year right is entering it with a positive mindset.
Have a Trajectory
All the courses and prep in the world won’t do any good if they are viewed as singular elements. When students and teachers are left without a feeling of purpose or direction when it comes to their undertakings, it can be difficult to maintain a positive perspective. For example, introducing the latest technology may be an attention grabber, but if the technology doesn’t make a purposeful contribution to students’ learning, they can become disengaged. If the question Why do we have to do this? can’t be answered with more than Because I said so., then the positivity of everyone’s mindset is in jeopardy. Engagement must be coupled with purpose to be truly meaningful.
Take all the technology, subject expertise, latest methods, etc. and set off on this school year’s educational journey with a purposeful destination in mind. Where do you want students to be at the end of the first day, week, quarter, semester? In the quest to build problem solvers, abstract thinkers, upstanding citizens, risk takers, lifelong readers, etc., having that destination in mind will drive the way in which time with students unfolds and the learning environment is created. As with any journey, there are sure to be side trips, road blocks, detours, and maybe even some shortcuts; these all comprise the moments and milestones that make learning memorable and lasting. When you share the road map with students, it allows them to see the vision and hop on board. A journey with a foreseeable purpose can do wonders for keeping everyone positive and engaged.
Maintaining a healthy mindset often boils down to how you spin it when it comes to those detours and roadblocks that will inevitably be encountered. Sometimes this can be easier said than done, but it certainly makes a world of difference. Rather than beleaguering yet another round of testing, spin it as an opportunity to learn more about your students that will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the year’s journey. Rather than groaning when your new roster reveals a student that was the talk of the teacher’s lounge last year, spin it as the chance to be the teacher that finally makes the right connection (GEI Article: Extending Your Reach). Rather than begrudging the implementation of a new program or the piloting of new materials, spin it as an occasion to show students how to embrace change and make the best of new situations. When teachers lead by example, they set the tone and mindset for the learning environment.
Expect the Unexpected
Teachers can plan it and spin it, but the one thing they can’t do is control every aspect of it. Yes, there needs to be a schedule, routines, expectations, etc., but there are also needs to be the wherewithal to expect the unexpected. Teachers can’t control fire alarms, connectivity issues, calamity days, stomach flus, or any other host of unforeseen occurrences, but the one thing that can be controlled is how they respond to them. Handling the inevitable in a calm and reassuring fashion puts everyone at ease. The willingness to accept that things won’t always go as planned allows for some amazing learning opportunities to be blossom and life lessons to be learned.
The beginnings of a new school year are the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button. Starting the school year off right can be achieved by charting the course, learning the art of the spin, and expecting the unexpected. A teacher’s mindset offers students the first exemplar for guiding their own behaviors. When positivity leads the way, a fruitful learning journey is sure to follow.