Following our INSET day last week, DHS drama teacher and occasional guest blogger Lesley Graney has been reflecting on her mindset…..and that of her students. Enjoy….
It been a while since I have made parallels between my home life and that of my professional life. I recall hair stuck down a plug hole, an unwilling husband , Educating Yorkshire and The Apprentice. A bizarre and unique combination.
Recently as a school we have been considering ‘mindset’, with the students doing a mindset questionnaire, and in the last INSET we reflected on these findings and the implications for us as teachers. So are you fixed or growth? Or in my case a bit of both.
I am a woman of a certain age, that being middle aged, and as well as slowly morphing into my mum, I can also hear her phrases of wisdom playing out in my ears. Of the very many to choose from, the one as we start a ‘new life in a new year’ is ‘it gets harder to lose weight when you get older’. I am now very aware of that.
I blame that on my children to be fair. I never really had a weight issue before that. As well as the whole pregnancy thing, it is surely their fault that I eat the remainder of the food off their plates before I get to the bins. It is also their fault that I have no time to myself, let alone time to exercise – I am now this weight and shall be evermore; this is my fixed mindset talking.
As many of us are, I am rethinking about my weight, health, the usual beginning of the year dilemma. During the Christmas period, as the old joke goes, I was on a ‘see food’ diet. This over indulgence has left its mark, and the figure I see on the scales is a combination of numbers I have never seen before.
So this year so I am trying something new – the 5/2 diet. If you are unaware of this, it basically is to starve yourself, or fast as they like to call it, for two days, then you can eat what you want the rest of the time.
It’s not strictly starving. As a woman, I am allowed 500 calories on these fasting days; but don’t get too excited a small latte is about 340 calories to put it into context.
The first two weeks and a bit are great, as I lost 3lbs, which for me is amazing. It’s a bit of a struggle, plus the fact we aren’t drinking in the week, but I can see progress. Then week 3, nothing, not a pound, and this is what usually happens to me.
I don’t improve after trying, and my fix mindset starts talking; I don’t rise to the challenge, I give up, start moaning (ask my husband), start asking what’s the point of all this effort? I might as well eat what I want! I am middle aged, what do I expect, this is the weight I am going to be. Back to the wine, snacking and moaning, but this time about something else.
However, this time I have dug deep and tried to have a growth mindset about it. I went back to the book to remind me of other benefits this way of eating helps me. I read about plateaus and expected weight loss. I looked back at what 500 calories was just in case I was overdoing it. Really re-evaluating my expectations.
I stared at the ‘you used to fit into this easily’ dress which is in my wardrobe, reminding me ‘what the goal looks like’ and finally as only a middle aged woman can do, I threw caution to the wind, faced my fears and I did something new – I went to……. Zumba! I am still recovering from the experience, but I added more exercise to my regime, rather than give up.
Despite obstacles I am rising to the challenge. I can make the changes – I don’t have to accept that my weight will be like this forever. I have fasted for my two days this week and today I can eat what I want; hurrah!
Mindset, not fasting, is something I have been working on in school since September, when I started to teach a group of students, who as a whole, I sensed may have had such a fixed mindset about their abilities.
Normally in the classroom I have a growth mindset, and a’ bring it on’ attitude. However, I was finding their fixed mindset was like a disease, slowly creeping into everything. It was difficult to keep overcoming obstacles that were set in my way and trying to overcome a perceived apathy.
However, just like my dieting, I kept re-examining and re-evaluating my expectations. I had to really look at the group and the individuals within it and their needs. I looked back at the book, the syllabus, not necessarily relying on the tried and tested lessons, tried new approaches, modelled everything, reminded them and myself what the goal looked like, as well as bringing enthusiasm to every lesson, regardless what happed the lesson before. Oh yes, and be patient, teaching like weight loss, takes time.
I persevered with a growth mindset, because I recognised that can be contagious too.
But what was my ‘Zumba’ moment? What did I do completely differently? What did I do that categorically signalled my refusal to have a fixed mindset and embrace a growth one? Well, I did the hardest thing first, I made them face the fear and do it anyway. I did the ‘10 mark’ question first; the hardest one. The ultimate piece of modelling; I made this the exemplar and said ‘You can do this, you have the ability’ – a growth mindset approach.
I directed a performance piece with them. I softened the blow a little, and did it as a whole group to create a safe environment; but I wanted to show them; “This is what it should look like”, “this is how it feels”, “and this is an example of”. This piece has since then been my reference point to reflect on for so many things. “Do you remember when?” “Can you remember how it felt to?”. Usually we would start with small performance improvements, gradually building up to what it should look like. This time I turned it on his head, setting out how ‘10’ is in reach of everyone.
Like my weight, in some lessons, I do hit plateaus, but just as exercise moved things on for me, I am making progress within my group.
But this is the beginning of the year. We can all not drink in January, or starve a couple of days a week for a while. Let’s see how I am doing later in the year, and in my classes case, how they do in August 2015.