Growth Mindsets are Contagious


Recently, I have been thinking a lot about growth mindset. Being the topic of the latest Google EDU newsletter and a recent SAVMP prompt, I couldn’t help but to reflect on my own mindset. When I was a kid, my dad used to take me on long rides in the country. He would talk to me about how much of a class clown he was as a youngster and how he never really cared about school. He used to tell me that education was the key to success, that being smart was cool, and that I could do anything I put my mind to if I worked hard. In a sense, my dad was growing my mindset from a young age.

I carry his words with me everyday. It has always been a dream of mine to design and build my dream house in the woods. A few years after my future husband and I met, I mentioned my goal to him. His first reaction was to dismiss my dream as unrealistic. Sure it was a stretch and I knew it would take discipline, but I was willing to put in the hard work. At the time, my husband’s mindset was fixed. In his world, my goal was unattainable. However, after some long discussions and additional planning, I convinced him that there was no reason why we couldn’t build our dream home. I was growing my husband’s mindset just as my father had grown mine as a young child.

In my career, I have seen every opportunity as a learning experience. In order to stay current and relevant, I need to take advantage of new experiences and step out of my box. A few months ago, I stepped into a new position as an assistant principal of a high school. Soon after beginning, I thought to myself, “What do I need to do differently now that I am an assistant principal?”. Obviously, I needed to do a lot of things differently, but most importantly, I need to focus on growing mindsets.

My experiences have shown me that growth mindsets are contagious, so how do I grow the mindsets of the students and staff that I work with? Here are some of my ideas:

  1. Set and communicate lofty but realistic goals for those in the school
  2. Avoid thinking that our school is an island and seek to build connections throughout the community and world
  3. Consider every new opportunity and experience because you never know where it may take you
  4. Communicate that even the best students and staff members have room to grow. Those who take offense to this statement need to consider their own mindsets.

What are some other ways that I can continue to grow my mindset and the mindsets of those around me?

Leading Learning In My School Community

My background is special education. As other special educators know, we are experts making content accessible to all students no matter their learning style, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Special educators are trained to modify content and make accommodations for students. Essentially, I feel confident that I can lead professional development in differentiated instruction within our school community. I can provide support to teachers in how to modify content, process, product, and environment in order to individualize instruction for our students.

I have also trained my colleagues in the implementation of school- wide progress monitoring and data based decision making. We worked with all staff members to collect data on individuals and groups of students, design and implement interventions for students, and track the effectiveness of these interventions over time.

No doubt I can lead the staff in differentiated instruction and data based decision making. I do continue to battle with finding time to lead in these areas. However, I can find time to lead by increasing the amount of time I allot to walkthroughs, providing systematic feedback to teachers, and by making this knowledge easily accessible to teachers through conversations, my webpage, and social media.
How do you find time to lead teaching and learning in your school?

Creating Connections- My First Priority

I was recently accepted into the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program. This program serves to connect new and seasoned school administrators by providing them with opportunities for mentoring through collaboration. I am looking forward to learning with experts in the field such as Amber Teamann, Joe Mazza, Paul McGuire, George Couros and my UPSD colleague Jeff Fries.

During the month of October, we were tasked to respond to the following prompt: “What are some ways that you connect with your school community?”. Here goes!

When I was first hired at Upper Perk High School to serve as the assistant principal, I strongly believed that building strong connections with people would need to be my first and most important priority. In order to do this, I believed I needed to do several things. I needed to be present, transparent and genuine, show interest in others (and not only in their professional experiences but their personal lives too), ask questions and truly listen to the answers that followed. I also needed to show that I cared for my colleagues, students, parents, and community members. If I could be successful in demonstrating these attributes, I would build trust and help foster change throughout the school and community. I hope that I have succeeded in my first few months as a school administrator.

I have worked to connect with the school community by starting a Twitter page for Upper Perk High School. School administrators now frequently post about the great work we are doing in the school and district. I try to be present at extracurricular functions so that I can meet parents and students and engage in personal conversations. I also maintain a Google site on our school’s webpage that contains important information and documents for parents and students. I feel it is important to be an active member of the community and always look for ways to pay it forward. Soon after joining the UPSD community, I signed on with Love Upper Perk. I now work with others to maintain their Facebook page. This experience allows me to build bridges between the school and community. How do you connect?

Keeping the Focus on Students

As a new administrator (and shortly a new mother), I have spent a lot of time trying to define my leadership style. After coming on board at Upper Perkiomen High School at the end of the 13-14 school year, I felt it was essential to build rapport, develop relationships with the faculty and staff, “show up”, and make sure there was some consistency until the end of the school year. Maybe as a credit to past administrators, the faculty welcomed me into their building with open arms. Upon my arrival, faculty members shared with successes, failures, concerns, and struggles with me. I was, and still am, happy to listen and share.

We are now well into the 2014-2015 school year. I need to continue to remember that nurturing positive relationships and rapport with the staff will pave the road for change at UPHS. However, I believe my focus needs to broaden to encompass teaching, learning, and instruction throughout the school. As educators, our focus needs to be on the individual student. Conversations in the school need to be framed around how to provide the best education to individuals and provide our students with a multitude of opportunities to pursue their interests and passions.

It is pretty amazing to me that schools and administrators can so easily become immersed in issues that shift the focus away from instructional leadership. This year, in order for UPHS to run efficiently, administrators and teachers have needed to manage a transition to a new student information system, address disciplinary concerns, attend to parent and student concerns and questions, deliver a curriculum, and plan for and implement the ever changing mandates funneling down from PDE (among other things). All of these “tasks” shift the focus away from student centered teaching, learning and instruction. Everyday, I need to set time aside to be present in classes to provide feedback to teachers and students, to have conversations and reflect on student centered instructional practices and create opportunities for students to engage in their interests and passions. My students deserve nothing less. A necessary but lofty goal as a new school administrator and mother….