Beginning Summer With Beginner’s Mind

Flower for Begining Summer with Beginner's MindImage found at https://flic.kr/p/eFPrAZAs

As I end this school-year, like many of you, I am asking myself: Have I really done all that I set out to do. Have I touched lives in the way I wanted to? Taken the chances worth taking? And although I’m wondering IF I’ve accomplished my goals, I’m also taking a look at WHY I want to. What is it that drew me to this career in the first place? Why is it that I will come back in the fall?

Of course there are obvious things like being a positive part of change, loving learning,  and working with amazing people. But there are many jobs that could give me this. Why education? In delving into this question I’ve come to realize that what sets teaching apart is its natural connection to beginner’s mind.

What is it that drew me to this career in the first place?

Why is it that I will come back in the fall? 

Why education?

Beginner’s mind is about having the wonder of the “first-time”, even when we are no longer novices. It is the hunger of possibility, even when we have traveled a path many times. It is a way of living into opportunity, even if we think we have experienced it all. When you meet someone with beginner’s mind they are wide-eyed with discovery, even if they are an expert. They bubble with the freedom of learning, although they already know so much.

Teaching is about creating the conditions of beginner’s mind.

Teaching is about creating the conditions of beginner’s mind. It’s how we add the wonder of learning to the drive for achievement. When we promote the safe space to be a novice, we promote beginner’s mind.  When we reframe mistakes as first steps, we shape beginner’s mind. And when we exude our own passion, we exemplify beginner’s mind.

At the end of the school year it is easy to find ourselves all out of beginner’s mind. Given the best of intentions, the course of the year can diminish our intrigue. The day-to-day routine can become mundane. After months of putting in so much effort, we may be just-plain-tired. In any of these situations it can be hard to see the world through inspired eyes.

Summer is the perfect opportunity to jump-start beginner’s mind. Here are three things to try to help you get back into your beginner’s mind:

  1. Do something new – Trying something new immediately puts us in a place of beginner’s mind because, realistically, we are beginners. Doing new things can be valuable whether big or small. You may hang-glide or just try a new coffee. You might call someone you have never hung out with, or just take a different route. Either way, notice the feeling of newness and discovery. What would it be like to bring this feeling to your routines during the school year?
  2. Start small Begin to think about your day-to-day experiences as if you were just having them for the first time. Remember the first flower you planted that bloomed? How about the first time you drove a car on your own? What about when you got a new pillow and had the best night of sleep ever? How about the first time you traveled somewhere new? Starting with small ways to view the world in a new light sets us on a larger path towards maintaining a mindset of inspiration. What would it be like to keep first-time excitement at the forefront of your mind all throughout the school year?
  3. Practice gratitude for the regular – Renewing our appreciation for things we have come to take for granted opens up space in our hearts and minds. When we take time to practice gratitude we build new mental habits, new neural-connections. Doing so gives us energy where we might otherwise feel drudgery (doing dishes again?). What would it be like to feel grateful for that one thing that happened again and again last year? Could gratitude give us power in those moments?

As you begin summer, I hope you’ll consider ways to conjure beginner’s mind. No matter if you are just starting your teaching career, or have long-standing experience, beginner’s mind can help keep your passion alive. To help myself, and get others thinking along these lines, I have posted this quote by my classroom door. Maybe you will too?

The person that inspired this post

Suzuki Roshi “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” 

The book that inspired this post

 Zen Mind Beginner's Mind

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Who I Am and Why I’m Here

Be the change you want to see

Let’s Meet

I’m Dawn and, like you,  I endeavor to be a superhero. Not the kind who slays villains and saves victims. No, I want to be the kind who changes our entire world; one heart and mind at a time.

 My Core Beliefs

I believe in the power of public education to promote equity, justice, and a safe space for all voices. I believe that every being has gifts to share and a story to tell. I believe that learning is one of the most electrifying things to do. I believe that teachers are the backbone of societal change. And I believe that together we are stronger.

 Why I’m Blogging

There is no doubt that starting this blog is terrifying. Writing in a public venue instead of keeping a journal is like the time I needed a tooth pulled. I knew it had to be done and I was scared. So I pondered it for a decade while ignoring what needed to happen. But someone said to me recently that it’s time to “Dare Greatly” (more on this here and here). And I realized that if I’m not willing to take risks, how can I expect fellow educators and our students to? If I’m not willing to be the change I want to see, then how can I live out my superhero dreams? So I’m blogging to share myself with you. I’m blogging to support new and experienced teachers on your superhero missions. I’m blogging to promote an education system that values both our children and our teachers.

 What’s Coming Next

The focus of this blog is to promote the super in all teachers, even on days you don’t feel like heroes. My aim is to help you thrive as a public educator. This means that I’ll provide support as you honor and hone your teaching practice, advocate for your students and yourself, and navigate a career within public education. You can come here to find tried-and-true strategies, excellent reading recommendations, and worth-your-time resources. And I’m sure to share my point of view in a post or two.

Come learn with me!