Get Out of Your Own Way and Reframe Your Thoughts

Several years ago, my district adopted the Danielson Group’s Framework for Teaching Evaluation. We all shuffled into our respective schools for our faculty meetings to learn about how the evaluation method would differ from years’ past, view the structure of the FFT rubric, and to visualize the extensive format of the full evaluation process. If you are not familiar with the FFT, here are some quick reference points:

  • The FFT for Evaluation encompasses 4 domains: Planning & Preparation, Classroom Environment, Instruction, & Professional Responsibilities.
  • Each quadrant lists bullet points which provide details of the educational practice.
  • All of the domains have specific language that corresponds with a rating system within a rubric. The rubric is used as a self-reflective tool, as well as the administration’s official evaluation tool.

For the domains of Classroom Environment and Instruction, the “Distinguished” rating constitutes highly engaged learners, taking ownership of their education as active participants in the learning process. I distinctly remember a fellow teacher remark, “How will anyone ever get distinguished if we’re just letting the kids run the classroom? How are they learning anything if it’s just fun time – free time all day?”

At the time of our FFT rollout, I had already begun incorporating varied levels of Choice-Based Art Education (CBAE) into my classroom practice, and immediately took offense. The dialog in my mind exploded in defense of my classroom fitting into the category of “fun time – free time.” I knew how much research, planning and preparation it took to shift more control to my artists. I experienced the hours of observation, failing forward, and revision required to continuously improve the learning environment, lessons, ideation support strategies, flexibility to explore, acceptance to loosen deadlines, the list goes on.

One critical lesson that I had mastered (it took years of practice I assure you) that some of my other colleagues had yet to learn was to take charge of my thoughts by reclaiming my mind and reframing existing limiting beliefs.

What are limiting beliefs?

These things hold a ridiculous amount of power in our lives – sometimes way too much power. Limiting beliefs live in our minds. They are thoughts that we believe in our hearts are true. We have been conditioned to believe them as truths.

You might be thinking, so what? So what?! Limiting beliefs can hold us back from living as our best selves. Limiting beliefs can be so negative that it takes an army to help us recondition ourselves from believing them as true. Limiting beliefs can keep us from thinking our brilliant ideas and taking action to bring them to life, influencing others and living on purpose.

Let’s consider some of the limiting beliefs we may hold as educators:

  • Some of my kids just hate [insert subject], so no matter how hard I try, it’s useless.
  • How can I teach [insert topic or skills] when it’s my weakness?
  • There’s no way I’m getting up any earlier than I have to just to work out in the mornings.
  • I am so swamped with work at school. How am I ever going to get it all done without taking it home every night?
  • These kids are just lazy. It must be a generational thing.
  • I don’t have time for [insert activity], so I guess it won’t happen.

Now it’s time to consider limiting beliefs we have about learner-centered education:

  • There’s not enough time in my day to plan for [enter number of learners here] to all be doing something different at the same time.
  • I travel to 3 schools and have nearly 1000 kids. It just won’t work.
  • It will be too chaotic for each student to be doing something they choose to do at the same time.
  • What are the kids going to actually learn if I let them do whatever they want to do?
  • I can’t run my classroom as if it’s fun time – free time.

Time to Reframe those conditioned beliefs:

Instead of saying: There’s not enough time in my day to plan for … to all be doing something different at the same time. Try saying: Yes, it will take time to plan for a big change in my classroom, but I am willing to put in the time to benefit the learning experience of everyone.

Instead of saying: I travel to 3 schools and have nearly 1000 kids. It just won’t work. Try saying: Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) was developed by an art teacher who taught over 1000 kids and needed a more effective way to manage art education. It has been implemented for decades, and I can do it, too!

Instead of saying: It will be too chaotic for each student to be doing something they choose to do at the same time. Try saying: If everyone is choosing something different, that means they will be more engaged because they are choosing their learning path.

Instead of saying: What are kids actually going to learn if I let them do whatever they want to do? Try saying: I will develop lessons that are aligned with content standards. How the learners apply them will be optional to them.

Instead of saying: I can’t run my classroom as if it’s fun time – free time. Try saying: I am in complete control of the content, standards alignment, instructional strategies, assessment, and how the class time is structured. If someone thinks my class is fun time – free time, they are making incorrect assumptions.

Truth be told: I have either heard all of these statements or thought them myself. Prior to learning about how a learner-centered approach to art education works, I had my own doubts. Once I began, I was all in and wanted to advocate for learner-centered education, shouting the benefits from the rooftops, so to speak. I had push back from my peers and colleagues. Ultimately, I pressed on.

Regardless of my experience as a learner-centered art educator, we all have limiting beliefs that impact our personal and professional lives. I challenge you to begin developing an awareness of your own limiting beliefs. As soon as they appear in your mind, challenge them yourself. Listen to them, let them speak, and then shout “Get out of here!” Reframe those beliefs and start taking action to implement them in a positive light.

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