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Growth Mindset for New Teachers

Author: Dawn Mitchell


Hi everyone,

Many of you have learned about the importance of cultivating a growth mindset in our students . This provides opportunities within our classrooms for students to examine what they have learned when an attempt didn’t work out the way they thought such as their first trial in a science experiment or their rough draft in an essay they are writing and to celebrate growth. 

As the first nine weeks comes to an end soon, take time to reflect back on these weeks and what you have learned and how you have grown.  It is easy to feel discouraged or frustrated by what isn’t working the way you envisioned or by you are unable to do yet.   Instead, I encourage you to take a moment to think about what you have accomplished these first nine weeks.  I also encourage you to read James Hipp’s excellent article published last week in ASCD Express entitled, “Novice Teachers, You Don’t Have to Be Experts (Yet).”  It is a short but powerful read.

In the article, Hipp provides three targeted suggestions for how you can focus on what to do when you are feeling overwhelmed by what you cannot do just yet.  Take a look at them and see which ones you can begin employing into your practice. 

Surround yourself with teacher role models. Observe, ask questions, and slowly try to incorporate what you've learned into your own classroom with your own students.

Remember, no two groups of students are the same, so what works for another teacher on one group of students may not work for you on another group of students in the long run.

Find or create a professional learning community or network (PLC or PLN). In addition to PLCs at your school, social media can connect you with educators across the world. No matter what you teach, there's a hashtag for it with tips, tricks, and ideas (#Mathchat, #ElemSchool, #ProfDev, #ArtsEd, just to name a few).

Most important: Be patient! You will continue adding to your teacher toolbox long into your career as an educator. Keep a growth mindset and stop putting undue pressure on yourself.

It is important to give yourself grace in your teaching journey.  As a writing teacher I have learned from Nancy Atwell that my writers need three major ingredients in order to grow as writers:  time, ownership, and response.  I have come to understand that we, as teachers, need these three ingredients as well in order to grow and develop a strong sense of efficacy in our profession.  In order for us to know without a shadow of doubt that we are the change agent in the room and that we can make a difference in the lives of our students, we have to give ourselves ownership over our methods and strategies. We have to be willing to engage in trial and error with reflective practice so we can figure out not just what works but why and how we can replicate it We have to have continuous sources of feedback and support from mentors and veteran teachers as well as those new teachers who are alongside us figuring it out day by day.  When we give ourselves grace each day to give it our best and to learn from our mistakes, then we also give ourselves and our students permission to grow.  Growth can be celebrated at any point in the school year so take a moment to celebrate your first nine weeks growth.

I want to end with one of my favorite quotes by author Louisa May Alcott who writes, “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship.”  As first year teachers, you are re-learning to captain your ship. If there were only calm winds and smooth sailing, where would the adventure and learning opportunities lie?  It is through the hard parts of any journey that we learn the most about ourselves and about those with whom we are journeying.  You are gaining experience and expertise with each one and that is what will prepare you most for the future.



Dawn Mitchell

South Carolina ASCD President



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