The Impact of a Teacher, With or Without Growth Mindset

By Tiffany Belferder

I was in 7th-grade art class. We were learning shading by drawing pipes. The intention of the activity was to have the pipes wrapped around the page; identify one light source and then shade the pipes to reflect where the light was coming from. I have no idea how long this activity was meant to take, probably a week or so. Each time the teacher would walk around the room, she commented on my progress. I was doing well.  

After completing the project, I had at least another class period before we moved on. I spent the time adding little elves dancing around the pipes. I had no other direction and nothing to do! The teacher notices my drawing, runs across the room to yell at me. She makes sure everyone knew about my ignorance and that I was a “huge waste of her time.” That is a direct quote because at 12 years old, it stung. I spent the rest of the class with my head down and eyes full of tears. 

Sadly, my experience isn’t unique. We are built up or crushed by the reinforcement of others in our lives. We are encouraged or limited by those who we trust and respect. In my experience, my teacher reinforced my insecurities and self-doubt. That puts a whole new perspective on the role of those who are leading our classrooms. However, my intention is only to bring recognition. It is important that given the opportunity, we lead by example. I cannot tell you the reason my elves really tugged at the last nerve of my art teacher, but now as an adult, educator, therapist, and mother, I know it had less to do about the colorful additions to my page and more to do with her.  

For the last decade or so, Dr. Carol Dweck brought to our attention the power of our mindset.  We can look at a challenge as the problem or an obstacle to overcome. As the primary mentors and caregivers in our children’s and students’ lives, it is important that we are practicing what we preach!  Why does a teacher go into the field?  Look at the future that sits in front of us!  How do you want to demonstrate and show up for these kids?  It is the way life you tackle life! The way to develop a growth mindset is to exercise opportunities where you can take on a challenge. Do something that stretches your comfort level and do it with fun! Recognize where you can take on a challenge, even if it is enjoyable. A game, a friendly competition, or just one more thing on your plate but something that lights you up, that inspires your passion.  

You always have a choice. Who do you want to be to these kids?  Do you want to be someone who is inspired and therefore inspires others? We are more powerful than we imagine. For better or worse, each of us has a story where a teacher or adult has impacted us.  Which kind of impact do you want to make?  Our teachers are written into thank you speeches, credited for saving the child’s confidence in themselves, and inspiring their fields of study. All because they believed in their students’ own potential. We can do it as teachers and mentors and parents and adult influencers because all of us are! Take care of yourself so that you can give small moments to seeing the best in our kids.  

About the Author

Tiffany Belferder is the Head of School of Fusion Academy Long Island. She began with Fusion Academy in 2013, opening the Brooklyn campus. In 2014, she joined the Long Island Fusion team to be closer to her family, and immediately it felt like home!

Tiffany earned her Master’s degree from Long Island University. For 7 years she practiced as a licensed & registered Creative Arts Therapist. She started her career leading an after-school program for children with developmental disabilities, working alongside ABA therapists and special educators to create behavior plans to be implemented in home, school, and the program. Tiffany then took on the fast-paced world of inpatient adolescent psychiatric hospitals where she loved being able to counsel teenagers going through some of the toughest times in their lives. The experience she had there was challenging but overwhelmingly rewarding. After years working in hospitals, Tiffany joined Fusion falling in love with Fusion’s unique ability to change lives every single school day. She is humbled to use her dynamic experience & passion to continue fostering the success of Fusion Long Island as Head of School.

Tiffany has a passion for yoga, adventure, reading, podcasts, and the growth of all humans. Her favorite part of her day is being with the kids. You will be welcomed by her laugh in any location on campus! But above all, spends any free moment with her own children, Ben and Riley.

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