At the end of the last school year I made a promise to myself that I would begin to teach mindset in a meaningful and memorable way. My school had been trained in mindset and done a book study of “Mindset” by Carol Dweck about three years ago, and the ideas really stuck with me.
I really loved the ideas, and each year, I dabbled. And it was just that: dabbling. But dabbling wasn’t enough. Dabbling is never enough! This year I set aside a specific time during the day just for “Mindset.” I planned accordingly so that it would fall right before my math block, because I also happened to have my nose in “Mathematical Mindsets” by Jo Boaler the whole summer as well. So I painstakingly planned and created lessons with one of my colleagues on a week-to-week, sometimes day-to-day basis. Then, I found GEM™.
GEM has made it so much easier to plan and implement daily lessons involving mindset. I love the endless resources that the program offers along with the meaningful pairings of text recommendations - we primary teachers love our read alouds! Before GEM, my colleague and I were working on a day-to-day basis trying to plan new mindset lessons that included mindfulness, reflection, goal setting, etc. It’s been such a time saver having the materials at my fingertips, ready to implement!
GEM came at just the right time because my students this year are especially needy – both emotionally and educationally. More than any year before, I’ve noticed that all of my students have taken on the responsibility to embrace growth mindset. I’ve seen students who perform above expectations push themselves even harder (and I’ve even heard them say “I want to challenge myself!”) and my struggling students embracing challenge and celebrating their own growth. Seeing these results has just reinforced that I made the right choice to carve out those precious 10-15 minutes every day just for mindset.
Another noticeable impact has been on interactions with families. One of my favorite things to hear from parents is “We’ve heard him/her say that at home!” Since focusing on mindset so much this year and naturally incorporating it into every part of our day, I hear this so much more. It’s also a wonderful way to talk about student growth and needs when meeting with parents. The power of “yet” isn’t only for students, it’s an excellent discussion point for our parents of students receiving RTI or ESE services.
This year has been one of those years. The one where you have 5 million students, feel like you’re teaching three different grade levels, and have a barrage of behaviors to manage. Mindset has been my lifesaver this year, especially when it comes to mindfulness and behavior. GEM has a wonderful way of teaching children how to interact with their own feelings while also taking others' into account. My favorite GEM read aloud is “Learning and Growing Together” because it covers so many social skills and behaviors in a relatable way. The students really seem to internalize the meaningful words and often refer back to them.
As with any transformation, growth mindset has made an impact at home too. My little firecracker, Sunny, is a three-nager. Full. Blown. Three-nager. I have to keep in mind that he is three; a very wise three, but still three. GEM has helped me to remain empathetic when he has his meltdowns and fits. Or when he won’t stay in his newly-converted “big boy” bed at night. Repetition and creating those learning moments are key for him. He needs to create those connections in his brain that help him understand why he needs to stay in bed at night or why he can’t pull Scooter’s tail. I’ve used the themes from GEM to try to help Sunny understand that taking care of himself and understanding his feelings is a very important quality to have, no matter what age.
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, I can’t help but start planning ahead for next year. In doing that, I’ve had to reflect and answer the question, “Did I follow through on my promise?” I would like to say that I 100% met my goal and exceeded my initial expectations. But nope! While I did keep my promise, there are so many things I would like to have gotten to, lessons I would have liked to extend, and days that I wish I had planned better (rather than over my lunch break!). But hey, reflection is a huge part of growing and learning through mindset, so I’m proud that I am reflecting on my growth and beginning to set goals for next school year, when the cycle begins again.
Kelsey Holloway has been teaching first grade at R.B. Hunt Elementary School for the past 9 years, and was selected as Teacher of the Year in 2018. She is passionate about teaching students how to love learning. In her free time she can be found at the beach, jogging, and playing with her three-nager Sunny.