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Karen Lambert

Monash University Lecturer. Addicted and compassionate traveler,

Live your life first by doing the things you love. Use these things to drive, calm, support and sustain you while you work hard at planning, creating and teaching. That way your teaching is driven by your energy for living and learning.

What do Sidney Poitier, Richard Dreyfus, Hillary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Edward James Olnos, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robin Williams all have in common?

They are all actors who have played the role of the awesome, “I change lives for breakfast” kinds of teachers. As a result the movies they played in are now the stuff of legend.

Real characters or not, these teachers did some pretty special things with their teaching content and context which had the effect of turning apathy into passion, disinterest into engagement, and knowledge into nostalgia for their students. The essential ingredient of their success was there ability to create change in their learners (visceral, social, cultural, emotional and intellectual changes). This blog extends this idea by considering the second part of the Create Change model – teacher mindset.

There are at least 6 mindset attributes that teachers possess and display that potentially create the kind of CHANGE that leaves learners yearning.

1. Courageous, authentic and confident mindset

Fact: Teaching is scary. Doing it exposes our fears, limiting beliefs, and sensitivities.

Counter: It does the same for learners!

Mindshift: A bit of bravado helps but seek out courageous authentic confidence by stretching yourself and your students; connecting and engaging with imaginative and creative processes; learn from your students; seek utter clarity in communication; and, always genuinely attempt to be your best

2. Hope, care and compassion mindset

Fact: Learners are extremely complex and diverse and often have preconceived ideas about learning, knowledge and you.

Counter: Ditto for teachers!

Mindshift: Awareness of diversity, acceptance of difference and empathetic connection are important teacher attitudes that will assist you to create a safe, respectful and supportive learning environment. This will occur when you let go (and smile just a little), make important connections for learners (their needs and communities), and become self aware of your own personal values and beliefs.

3. Attitude is everything mindset

Fact: Teaching takes energy, commitment and persistence.

Counter: So does learning, living and loving!

Mindshift: You must believe that a teacher who wants to be their best will attract their best. Your passion and enthusiasm will bring learners to you; your fairness, flexibility, compassion, calm disposition, and message will keep learners with you (and talking to others about you).

4. Never say never mindset

Fact: Teaching is often draining, difficult and repetitive.

Counter: So is learning!

Mindshift: Toughen up, work smarter not harder, and develop a work ethic that is disciplined and focused; be open minded and generous, as well as organized and professional plus be embracing of, and willing to change.

5. Get balance first mindset

Fact: Being a kickass teacher is hard work and takes lots of my time.

Counter: Most things that are worth doing are hard work and take time.

Mindshift: Live your life first by doing the things you love. Use these things to drive, calm, support and sustain you while you work hard at planning, creating and teaching. That way your teaching is driven by your energy for living and learning.

6. Educate myself mindset

Fact: Teachers go stale, lose motivation and get disillusioned.

Counter: This is a choice!

Mindshift: Teaching requires settling into a constant state of improvement in which new ideas and perspectives generate new ways of thinking and operating, and where if you ask the right people the right questions you will love the process of lifelong learning (and teaching).

Bad acting aside I think it’s fair to say that the rewards for attempting to teach well far outweigh the excuses for not trying it at all or for doing it in a half heartened manner. If your primary aim as a teacher is to create change in learners the place where this must start in in your own heart and mind.

How do you make sure your teaching changes lives?