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.