Sunday, September 18, 2016

Resiliency or Growth??

What is more valuable in leadership and school climate coming into an underperforming school... a growth mindset or a resilient mindset?  When speaking in terms of mindset, perhaps resiliency is even more important with schools that were previously struggling.  Acknowledgement of students that show grit and moxie, families who see our vision and are devoted to our mission despite what the state determines is our "grade," patience and determination of staff trying to make multiple years of gains with our students who deserve to have the achievement gap closed; these qualities are not always necessary in high-performing, low-poverty schools but are imperative in ours. While I feel a growth mindset is extremely important, I believe in order to succeed in a high-needs school, one must have a resilient mindset.

According to the article:  This set of assumptions, or attitude, is referred to as a 'mindset.' A resilient mindset encompasses the following features:
  • Feeling in control of one's life, or being confident.
  • Knowing how to strengthen 'stress hardiness.'
  • Being empathic.
  • Managing strong feelings and impulses.
  • Displaying effective communication and other interpersonal capabilities.
  • Applying problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  • Establishing realistic goals and expectations.
  • Learning from both successes and failures.
  • Being a compassionate and contributing member of society.
  • Living a 'responsible' life based on thoughtful values and ethics.
  • Feeling special, but not self-centered, while helping others to feel the same.
  • Being more optimistic rather than pessimistic.
  • Being flexible and adaptable to change and obstacles.
Having a resilient mindset does not mean that one is free from stress, conflict, or pressure. It just means that one is better able to solve or cope with problems as they arise.
The urgency to move forward a school that was failing the students can sometimes be overwhelming.  The teachers put in extra hours, the students are not only learning content, sometimes they are learning real-life character skills that should be celebrated as well.  Learning to share, manners, evidence of respect; for some of our students these skills were missing last year and are now overwhelmingly evident.  However, that emotional intelligence data isn't always measurable on a standardized test, so it isn't always recognized by outsiders.  We must take the time to celebrate growth in that regard but also ensure that it doesn't become the pseudo-focus.  One example that comes to mind is a student who has made an incredible turn around this year.  Last year, he ran out of class, cursed at teachers, openly was defiant about doing work or putting in effort.  You would not recognize him this year. He's on task, excited about learning, engaged in class, and has a deep love for the school evident by the many posters he takes time to make at home.  This won't show up on a standardized test, but it's a HUGE gain for our school.  It's an even bigger gain for our kiddo who has not been in trouble one time this year. He has found himself as a leader, he's resilient and has overcome some very serious issues outside of school and we are incredibly proud of these emotional gains. 

You see, the day of a leader is typically filled with highs and lows, I just notice that they tend to be heightened in a school in our position.  Any misstep or disappointment from a parent ends with the following statement... "and this is why you're an 'F' school."

Example- "Your school lunch isn't nutritious enough"... Wait for it... "and this is why you're an F school."

"You're hallways don't have enough student work... and this is why you're an F school."

"You're letting the students have too much fun..."

"You're not letting the students have enough fun..."

"You're under disciplining other children.."

"You're expecting too much from my child..."

We wear it, we accept it, and at this point we expect it.  I'm one of the weird administrators that loves feedback and genuinely tries to grow from it.  In fact, I spent Friday night calling back a parent who wanted to share some observations.  I appreciate the feedback and we are always looking to improve. 

Honestly, I think what drives us forward isn't our growth mindset as a school it's our resilient mindset.  This is not a sprint.  This won't happen overnight.  We know that huge gains today may slide back tomorrow, and that's ok.  We are on a journey. If we focused only on our growth mindset we might get discouraged when we don't see the results of our labor immediately.  This is tough work people.  Only the strongest can handle this type of pressure and accountability.  

We are in this together.

It's a fragile system... but our resilient mindset, #failforward moments, and hunger to consistently improve will be the game changer.

My point of view is that in our position, having a resilient mindset might be even more important than a growth mindset.   

Thank you to an incredibly resilient TRIBE of Very Brave Educators!

We can and we will do this!

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