By Julie Sochaki
As we fully settle into the brand-new school year, I cannot help but think of having a growth mindset and integrating our individual strengths into our practices. While identifying key strengths can help our students build confidence and increase performance in the classroom, I integrate these elements into my own life as well, especially when I hit a roadblock or need some extra inspiration on this teaching journey.
Recently in my class of first-year college students, I invited them to choose one element from Dr. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. Then I asked the learners how they can integrate this element into their lives this week. I ultimately wanted to know how they shifted their thinking in order to succeed. Many students chose “embracing challenges” (growth) instead of “avoiding challenges” (fixed). One student shared that in order for her to embrace challenges she needs to take risks and move outside of her comfort zone. Another student told the story of how he had “failed” at ice skating multiple times, only to make the school ice hockey team a year later. That doesn’t sound like failure to me. Their combined strengths of determination and passion allowed them to continue without giving up. It reminds me of Thomas Edison’s experience when he discovered the light bulb. He said the lightbulb is an invention with 1,000 steps.
Similarly, we as mentors and mentees can embrace a growth mindset and cultivate our individual character strengths. Strengths inventories helped me to identify these empowering characteristics within myself such as creativity, gratitude, perseverance, zest, teamwork, and optimism. Identifying and then leveraging our strengths are essential when making small incremental changes in our practices that lead to larger shifts in our thinking and in our classrooms. Why not embark on a journey for this school year with a fellow traveler? Perhaps you crave support or a good listener, or maybe you would like to share some of your wisdom with another teacher outside of your building.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, more information can be found here. If you decide to apply to be a mentor or mentee click here. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Nicole Martone or Julie Sochacki, mentoring program co-chairs.