The Right Stuff: How YOUR Mindset Determines Your Student's Success

Growing up, I was always a super practical kid. An old soul so to speak.

When I started hearing about things like mindset and affirmations and what have you, I had the big eye roll and thought you simply must be kidding me!

Work hard. Do your best. Maybe a little faith, but God only helps those who help themselves. PERIOD. The idea of positive thoughts becoming more than just thoughts that wasn’t even on my radar.

But alas, when you know better, you have an opportunity to do better, and what I know now is that thoughts, mindset, beliefs, they all matter. In fact, how you show up in the classroom makes a big difference in whether or not your students will learn.

We spend a great deal of time before and during the early part of the school year, prepping for our students. Lesson plans, classroom organization, ordering curriculum, you name it. But taking a little time to assure that WE are ready for students is at least as important if not more.

Your outlook determines a great deal in your life and plays a significant role in your overall emotional health. Adopting a positive outlook can keep you physically healthier, allow you to reach more of your life’s goals and in turn make you more effective at educating.

What is a Positive Mindset?

 Most people have misconceptions about what positive thinking really is. It is not, for example, ignoring negating things in your life or living in denial. A positive attitude is simply a way of describing how you approach life and its many problems and obstacles. If your attitude is positive, you believe that you can overcome hard times and have success in the long run. If it is negative, you will find that one setback means you should stop trying. In school settings, it can be described as a growth mindset. Believing that improvements and progress can occur and that making effort toward those goals can have great benefits.

Positive thinking is also about seeing the good in other people as well as being positive in the way you think about yourself. That means looking for the strength in that student, the one who drives you crazy. Or having patience with that co-worker who never refills the copy machine. Or maybe even giving yourself a little grace when those jeans are too tight or you forget to call you BFF on her birthday. When you believe in the positive intentions of others and in your own ability to succeed, you are much more likely to be treated well by others and to reach those goals you set for yourself.

By contrast, when you assume others are intentionally failing or disrespecting you, you spend precious energy being frustrated or offended and you have less to actually solve the problems before you. Those with negative mindsets also tend to blame themselves for negative events outside of their control, whereas a positive attitude allows you to accept what you can and cannot influence in life. In some instances, students can even be triggered by these negative emotions and begin to act out emotionally or behaviorally.

A positive mindset makes you more resilient to negative outcomes and to the inevitable change that happens in life. When you are emotionally weak, you tend to want things to remain the same or have difficulty bouncing back after failures or obstacles, but a positive attitude helps you keep going after adversity or desire for your life to change and improve.

Your mindset even affects your body and physical health. Those with a more optimistic outlook tend to live longer, have lower levels of stress, have reduced rates of depression, are more likely to resist minor infections, handle stress better, and are less likely to have a chronic disease such as heart disease. As you age, a positive attitude can keep you more active and less likely to feel lonely, too.

 So how can you commit to having a positive mindset?

Focus on what is positive and enjoyable in your life, as often as possible. Use a gratitude journal or reflective practice to keep you attentive to the best parts of your life.

Next, learn to ignore feedback that you cannot control or comments that are meant to hurt rather than help you. In my life, I’ve had to let choice words slide right off my back when I know they were either coming from someone who was hurting or created with the intention of causing me pain. Take constructive criticism as an attack on the problem and not you, so that you can choose to address behaviors without feeling personally attached.

Last, but not least, get CONNECTED. The life of an educator can feel very isolating. It’s sort of like the saying, water, water every where and not a drop to drink. While you’re in a building full of people, I meet teachers everyday who tell me they’ve never felt more alone. There are absolutely ways of lessening those feelings, including reaching out to peers in the building, virtual ones in your online communities or even by scheduling time for yourself with a coach like me. While everyone doesn’t need ongoing mental health counseling, I believe everyone does need at least semi-annual check-ins with a coaching or mental health professional for the same check-up you’d get from your medical providers. My clients tell me that a quick conversation with me helps them identify and challenge those negative thought and behavior patterns so they can bring their best self to the classroom.

What do you do to bring the right mindset to your classroom?