Impact of a Growth Mindset
Updated: May 14
Crazy. That is the word that I choose to represent the change in my mindset over the course of this past year. As educators, we know the importance of fostering a growth mindset in our students, yet many times we forget to practice that same mindset in ourselves. We hit a stalemate, and remain stagnant in belief systems that reject the idea of change. Growth should not come from students alone. As educators, we must never stop growing, and never stop learning, but a part of me stopped learning this year.
One of the toughest parts of my experience with the Apple Coding Initiative was the realization that I hit a stalemate, and I hit it hard. I was spending so much time trying to be something that I am not, that I lost sight of who I am.
Let me explain. I have always lived my life by a guiding principle I once heard on my favorite 90's television show, Dawson's Creek. It was during the pilot episode when the title character said, "All the mysteries of the universe, all the answers to life's questions can be found in a Spielberg film."
Now I realize the reality of that statement is far from true, but it still resonates with me 20 years later. My dream was always to be a filmmaker and work with Spielberg. I'm a storyteller and I chased those dreams all the way to Hollywood. I loved every moment of working in television and film production. My first few years as a teacher, Jurassic Park was a must-teach lesson, E.T. was an intro to social emotional learning, and I secretly longed for October 21st, 2015 to come so that I could toss my students into a Delorean and hit 88 mph down movie memory lane. It was a ride I never wanted to end.
But it did.
The ride ended the minute I was announced Texas Teacher of the Year.
All of the sudden, the laid back, movie loving, black t-shirt and cargo short wearing film teacher became this person that everyone expected to be the representation of what a great teacher looks like. Job offers were coming from all over. Interviews. Op-eds. Speaking events. It happened so fast I never even had the time to process it all. People started telling me how to teach. What to teach. What to say and when to say it. Some people even took credit for "teaching" me, even though they never stepped a foot in my classroom. The worst - some made promises to my students in exchange for PR, then got upset that I wouldn't play by their rules when they failed to keep their promises to my kids.
This cycle lasted almost two and a half years, and it literally, took the life out of me. Four ER trips and multiple MRI's and CT scans later, I was so burned out that I made the decision to leave the classroom after this year. I stopped wanting to learn new things. I wasn't connecting with my students. I was convinced I was done teaching and there wasn't anyone or anything going to change my mind. I no longer recognized the person in the mirror. I hit rock bottom, but I kept a smile on my face the whole time.
I lost my ability to have a growth mindset.
One day during lunch, I was sitting at my desk when one of my seniors who I am really close to, asked me, "why are you here?" I looked at her strangely, and then asked what she meant. She straight up told me she could tell I no longer wanted to teach and that I was checked out. She said my entire Practicum class, my kids I have had 3-4 years, lost their passion for my class, and lost interest because they knew I didn't want to be there, so why should they care anymore. It was like a knife in my heart. She was honest, spoke her truth, and let me know that my being gone the past couple of years took a toll on them, as much, if not more, as it did on me.
I had failed them. No matter how hard I tried to believe that failure is a chance to learn, I couldn't see it. I lost my ability to have a growth mindset.
When we were sent to Arizona to attend the Apple Lead and Learn event, I felt like a fraud. I knew things were not going as well as I wanted them to be, but I was too hurt and ashamed to let anyone know. I was enjoying my time, and meeting a lot of amazing people, and everytime someone introduced me as the Texas Teacher of the Year, I cringed inside. All I could think about were my students, and how I let them down. But then, something happened. A moment that changed me forever.
Sady Paulson hit the stage.
As she shared her story with us, I was beyond moved. Here was this amazing human being, who wanted to be a filmmaker so much, she moved mountains to make it happen. She didn't give up when it got hard. She fought harder. She faced her challenges head on and never let any failures, or adversities stand in her way. Tears filled my eyes, and I knew in that precise moment, why I was so lost both personally and in the classroom.
I lost more than a growth mindset. I lost my ability to see my dreams. I forgot what made me who I am was a love and passion for filmmaking and storytelling that I wanted to share with the next generation. I told myself right then and there that I did not care what people thought of how I should teach, or what I should teach, because none of them knew why I teach. I knew I had to make it up to my students.
I went to a session to see Sady edit in person. It was absolutely astonishing.
In that moment, it felt like I was watching the growth mindset in action. Sady, her resiliency, and her fierce passion for storytelling is one of the reasons I chose to create my innovation plan. Sady said "when technology is designed for everyone, it lets anyone do what they love."
I wanted to make sure that I was not restricting my students in any way, and I knew that not having access to equipment outside of school was holding them back. They have stories to tell, and they deserve to tell them.
Sady inspired me so much that I was able to focus again in my other sessions and during a photography session, I took creative shots on my iPhone for the first time in almost a year.
When I returned to campus, I was so excited to share some of the new things I learned with my students. I could tell they were interested, but they were also still reserved and hesitant to put their trust in me again. As I looked around the room at their faces, I knew I had to try again. I had to keep trying until I got them back. And I did. It took awhile, but I got them back. Well, until Covid-19 that is.
The last time I saw them, we had multiple projects going on. They produced two major pieces for PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, some were creating videos for the campus, and they were all working on a parody of The Office for me to use as my recruiting video for next year. It was so good to have them coming back around, and I was starting to find my passion for it all again. And then just like that, it all came to a screeching halt, and they were gone.
Some of us have connected a few times since we left. It's not the same, but at least we have a little more time together. It has been challenging, but that's ok. Anything worth fighting for, is. We keep each other grounded, and we keep it real. We adapt to the changes, and we know that no matter what life throws at us, we got this.
Steve Jobs compared his business model to The Beatles. I get that now more than ever.
Those kids kept me in check and I did the same for them. They won't be in my program next year, and my programing will no longer be about filmmaking. It completely changes to encompass more commercial photography and media, design, and UX. It won't be the best for me, I will miss teaching film, but it will be the best for the kids, so that makes it ok. I am excited to take a risk and start over with an entirely new program and new set of kids.
I may be losing my film classes, and I may be losing my seniors, but I am regaining my growth mindset, my passion, and my creativity. None of that would have happened this year if I had not been a part of the Apple program, and if I hadn't met Sady Paulson.