Do you remember your first year of teaching? Or first year as an administrator? It was new, exciting, and full of adventure. I knew I was on a journey, and I was willing to take any path that would help me grow and become a better educator. There was great anticipation awaiting each day, a year of firsts – the first lesson, the first project, the first meeting. It was a year of forgiven mistakes, a year of great learning.
When we look back at that year of firsts, there is so much we would change. I reflect back to my first year of teaching, knowing I probably would not teach much of anything in the same way. This is not to say that my first lessons or first year was a bad one, but I know I have learned and grown so much since then with the plethora of experiences I have had since that time. I would also say that I reflect back to my first year as an administrator, and while it was not terrible, there is so much I have changed since that first year, all stemming from experiences and leadership lessons I have learned along the way. I took every moment in, reflecting so that I could become better in my second year.
We take that first year as a year of growth, moving into our second year with the same anticipation and excitement as the first, but with so much learned and ready to change. This is the year we begin to innovate. As a teacher, I had a bank of lessons to pull from, but with a greater concept of the bigger picture of what I wanted my students to know and be able to do. As an administrator, I built relationships with teachers, students, and parents, listening and getting to know the culture, and now in my second year, we could take where we are, build teams, formulate a collective vision, and move forward.
As we continue our journey as a teacher and/or administrator, each year we build upon the previous year, learning and growing, pulling from our experiences and built knowledge to be better for our students and our school. However, I would venture to say that at some point, we become comfortable. We begin to pull out that lesson that worked last year, or use that letter written before. We grab a hold of strategies that have been “tried and true”, asking the same questions of our teachers, delving into the cycle of initiatives that have come and gone before.
Our comfort level pulls us into a rut. Our comfort level slows innovative ideas, the willingness to try something new and take a risk. Even more than that, with experience, we may even feel that we cannot take risks anymore for risk of failure, since that is not what experience tells us we can do.
So, what separates those that stay in that rut or return to that mindset of our second year? What are the conditions that we can create to keep that feeling of excitement, risk-taking, pulling from our ever-increasing bank of experiences to become better for our students and our schools?
People. Passionate educators are the best way to renew our spirit of learning. We must find people who are innovative, search them out, and learn from them, whether it is through professional development opportunities, social media, or those colleagues around us that continually inspire. We are in the people business, and by building connections with other enthusiastic educators, we sharpen our own saws, learning and growing from their experiences and ideas, building upon our own knowledge in order to become better for our students. People can make or break our attitude. So, we must surround ourselves with those who innovate and inspire. We must seek them out to continue to stay at the top of our game, allowing those educators to push us to new levels.
Every educator must build his/her own positive connections. Those connections will not come knocking at your door. We can choose to surround ourselves with negative attitudes that have become comfortable and stuck in a rut, or we can choose to find people who inspire us, who take on risks with a smile. We need to become a part of learning networks, networking at professional development conference, delving into social media platforms, finding those who will nudge us to rekindle that second-year mindset of innovation and excitement.
Building those connections is a journey. Embrace it with positivity. Building my connections is a daily endeavor, one that has changed my mindset for the better, and has produced a cycle of the second-year mindset I am seeking in order to stay at my best for my students and my school.
From those connections who inspire us, we can then internalize that feeling, stepping up and sharing our mindset with others. We model what we want to see. Building connections begins as consumption – consumption of ideas, thoughts, and positive vibes. The next step is sharing your thoughts and ideas as well, contributing to the cycle. Our visible mindset pushes out that energized force, modeling for others the innovative ideas, starting conversations that will change others for the better, and propelling those around us to reflect and grow. Our visible mindset shares our beliefs and attitudes with other educators, pushing them to find those who will inspire them so that they too can become inspired by others.
To keep that second-year mindset, it is a cycle. Build connections with positive people who will nudge you down the path you would like to go. Learn from them. Then, visibly share that mindset with others, modeling, leading by example, thus fulfilling what was given to you. Fill your plate. Eat it. Then make a plate for someone else.
I believe so strongly in the necessity of building my PLN that I model it daily, leading by example, sharing my journey with my staff so that they will build their own PLN too. I keep that second-year feeling by continually leading by example, surrounding myself with other passionate educators who innovate. Then, I visibly share the power of my PLN, share the mindset this has bestowed on me, modeling how to build those connections in order to inspire others to do the same. I strive to establish a cycle of excitement through all I do.
Build connections and grow. Share your mindset and inspire others. Repeat.
Our experiences are invaluable in our efforts to grow and innovate for our students and our schools. We can grow daily if we allow ourselves to do so. Or, we can fall into our comfort zones, into a rut of experiences that lead us to the same destination year after year. I propose we reflect back daily, seeking that adrenaline we felt in our second year. It was still a year of building, growing, and excitement. It was a year of asking questions, still seeking knowledge. It was still fresh.
Let’s use our experiences to make each year like our second year, but even better.
Let’s surround ourselves with the people who make it so, who push us to grow and innovate.
Let’s share our mindset, making it visible to all, helping our colleagues and other educators around the globe relive that second year as well.
How will you continue to grow through the years of experience, renewing the spirit of your journey as if it was the second year?
Amy Heavin is the principal/lead learner at Ryan Park Elementary School, MSD of Steuben County in Angola, Indiana. She has been a school administrator since 2010, and taught middle school English for 8 years prior to that in Pasadena, CA, and Kendallville, IN. She holds a Bachelor of Musical Arts from DePauw University, a teaching degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Indiana State University. Passionate about curriculum and instruction, she pursues learning opportunities to blend 21st century essential skills instruction with best practices, leading through collaboration and coaching efforts. As a presenter, moderator for the #INeLearn Twitter chat, and monthly writer for Fractus Learning and BamRadioNetwork’s EdWords, she promotes integration of strong pedagogy with technology in the classroom. She is the mother of 3 growing boys and wife of Angola High School principal.
Tags: connections, grow, Growth Mindset, innovate, mindset