Crafting creative teachers.

Take a moment to bring to mind the most inspiring educational leader you know.

What qualities did that person have- and what qualities did he or she develop in you?

Now, think of the worst leader you’ve encountered. What qualities did that person have?

For most people, the difference is clear. You can easily determine when a person is consciously leading or teaching and doing a great job at influencing those around them, while on the other hand it is too frequent that somehow the centre of influence ends up being one of the most difficult personalities to have walked the earth, having a detrimental impact on all those that are around them.

That snappy bitch or lazy so and so that roams the corridors or hides behind their desk… you know the type we are referring to. The stuck up old cow or the narcissistic prick that drives you up the wall, we have all worked with them. Usually it’s the canteen lady or one of the deputies, but what happens when it ends up being you, the teacher?

Research shows that the difference between these two boils down to that teachers mindset: a reactive mindset decreases the teachers performance, impairs school culture and resiliency against burnout plummets. While a creative mindset improves all of the above.

As a teacher, which mindset would your prefer to operate from?

You are a leader of many, as a teacher, mentor, colleague, parent, coach etc. there are many roles you play that require a high level of performance and awareness to maintain positive relationships with your many followers. It is essential that you can teach and lead consciously with a creative mindset.

The tools and strategies that allow us to make the shift from a reactive mindset to a creative mindset, or stay in a creative mindset under pressure, have never been more crucial for teachers, since the circumstances and stress we face today feel more threatening and demanding than ever…

One thing you can always control is your mindset, now is the time to start living with a creative mindset. When have you ever been taught how to develop a creative mindset and how to teach in flow, where you find golden moments at every turn, joy in each day and fulfillment in your job?

How can you craft a more creative mindset?

The approach of Conscious Leadership developed by Dr Daniel Friedland M.D, is the path for teachers to operate in a high performance state and find flow and fulfillment in all that the do. It doesn’t just enhance your leadership; it’s also crucial for preventing burnout and building your resilience, so you can flourish in today’s high stress, time intensive teaching environment.

Fortunately, SMILE Teachers have joined forces with Danny to bring our teachers the very best leadership programs to empower more teachers to operate with a creative mindset and be positive role models for their school community. Teaching with a creative mindset will have a knock on effect, where you will see more conscious leaders in schools who generate more positive outcomes and experiences for students.

According to our experience working in education, most people define high-performance educators as those who

  • Have a clear vision and purpose

  • Are selfless and put others first

  • Are fun and engaging

  • Build rapport with their students and parents

  • Are decisive and get things done

  • Collaborate well with others

  • Show empathy and relate well to people

  • Are willing to go above and beyond

  • Are courageous and have integrity

  • Are emotionally intelligent

  • Are highly passionate and innovative

  • Are of service to something larger than themselves

In contrast, low performance educators are defined as those who

  • Tend to lead with ego and intimidation

  • Are territorial

  • Don’t play well with others

  • Snap easily

  • Put the bare minimum in and are good at “looking busy”

  • Micromanage

  • Wish they were somewhere else

  • Judge easily

  • Are quick to criticise or blame others

  • May be wishy-washy or “all over the shop”

  • Hard to trust them

  • May fight for power and control to prove their self worth, or take flight from their responsibilities or what personally may be a threat

  • Think about themselves

Straight away you should be able to see how a teacher operating with a creative mindset is going to be of benefit to not only themselves, but to all of those who depend on them, mainly the students. They relate well to people, are authentic, both systems aware and self aware and are achievement oriented. Our guess is that the majority of inspiring teachers who operate with a creative mindset have goals and love setting them.

We know many great teachers who have a pretty vision board, colourful calendar or goals book to keep them operating with a creative mindset. We love it! Teachers with a reactive mindset have low performance qualities. They focus on protecting their ego by being overly compliant, protective and controlling.

Now it’s not all doom and gloom, we find ourselves in a reactive mindset from time to time and that’s why SMILE Teachers is passionate about delivering our programs, we help develop more teachers who lead from the front with a creative mindset. Teachers who can respond to stress in a positive and manageable way and harness it as they promote creativity and a universal mindset in their lives (more about this later).

Staying in this reactive mindset is what we aim to prevent, this mindset has a negative impact on teachers health and happiness and ultimately leads to burnout. We can’t expect teachers who are stressed, anxious and emotionally fragile to be empowering and supporting students when they are a ticking time bomb living in a reactive mindset. But, did you ever learn how to manage your emotions when the going gets tough? We highly doubt it.

According to recent studies, many organisations name creativity as the top quality employees need to navigate our increasingly complex world. We believe the same applies for education. Creative thinking means not just innovation, but having greater awareness of yourself, others and the team in which you operate, connecting authentically and well with others; and achieving meaningful outcomes.

The Leadership Circle, a leading organisation in leadership development, shows both a clear correlation between a creative mindset and high performance, and between a reactive mindset and low performance. The reactive and creative mindset also impacts burnout and resiliency. In today’s high stress, dynamic, time intensive society there is a huge percentage of teachers reporting some degree of burnout, so extreme that we are losing too many teachers.

It’s not only kids who find the first days of school hard, according to a new study by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health which surveyed more than 450 “early career” teachers in NSW. The transition from university student to teacher of students sees two-thirds of new teachers struggle with their workload and time management, and 60 per cent feel work-life balance eludes them. They bring enthusiasm, but are largely unprepared for the demands on their time.

Challenges such as time management and managing parent-teacher relationships were some of the most difficult for them, but building professional relationships was often the skill early career teachers felt most confident in. And while they found managing students’ behaviour difficult, almost all teachers said seeing students learn, and building relationships with them, were the things they loved about the job.

Burnout is an omnious triad of symptoms in which individuals experience 1) emotional exhaustion, 2) feel disconnected in their relationships, and 3) experience a reduced sense of personal achievement in their work.

Dealing with burnout is not only debilitating for the teacher, but the teacher’s stress and reactivity can ripple through the class, eroding the environment and significantly cause harm to relationships and well being of students and staff.

Cutting edge stress research also shows how the harmful effects of stress have a lot to do with your mindset about stress, whether you view it as harmful or helpful. For example, Daniel Friedland M.D states “a large body of research tells us just how dangerous stress is for our health- yet if you become more stressed about being stressed, it can intensify your reactive mindset and make things worse!”

How do you view stress in your life?

Does stress impact on your ability to teach and inspire?

The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. When you work towards something greater than yourself you find meaning, you find purpose. When you keep people at the centre of what you do. It can have an enormous impact.

Deep inside of you live’s a hero who wants to do something great with your life. Who wants to inspire other people, who wants to do creative work, who wants to change the world. Maybe you are so numbed out that you’ve forgotten who you truly are and why you started teaching in the first place. When you wake up in the morning, your life means something to somebody and that is your purpose.

Our guess is that you starting working in education because you wanted to make a difference and inspire others. As you can see that is almost impossible to do if you let stress and fatigue start to impact your performance, leading to a reactive mindset and ultimately, burnout. That’s why we love that you're a a part of the SMILE Teachers community, we have experienced both sides of the mindset scale during our careers and we believe in our ability to influence others by operating with a creative mindset, working towards a universal mindset.

We hope by now you are starting to understand the difference between the creative and reactive mindsets. We believe all teachers and people working in education should be operating with a creative mindset and this link aligns with our Universal Mindset program that you can find out more about in our learning programs for teachers. Find us online, at a workshop or retreat new you!

Be Happy, Teach Well

*Daniel Friedland is a friend and mentor of Shaun and is working with him to develop the most powerful SMILE Teachers programs to empower school teachers and educational leaders to develop conscious leaders in education. Find out more about Danny and his journey on the Super Smart Health website.

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