Mindset for Outlier Teachers (Results Beyond the Norm)

Growth mindset has such a valuable place in the current educational zeitgeist shift. But what gritty application do teachers need to take from growth mindset ideas and discussions?

I say gritty application because there’s something about the grit required to create outlier results. And really…there aren’t many other kinds of results I’m interested in.

And you should be too. Here’s why.

Mindset for Outlier Teachers

Outliers shift the norm like nothing else. As educators change the conversation toward growth (in lieu of achievement), it’s the outliers that will lead the way – the positive growth outliers, that is.

Let’s start with this quote from @nalang1:

Awesome teachers…always question, “Is there a better way?”

Teachers who question, push, and disrupt normal…

…make all the difference.

They don’t wait for research to tell them what to do. Research almost always follows innovation to affirm or negate theoretical impact.

Instead of waiting for research, outlier teachers study and understand the research, but they also innovate beyond it. They seek better ways to reach students…not just implement best practice.

Growth mindset is a good starting spot, but there's something a little grittier that expert teachers hold to.

Mindsets of Outlier Teachers often create failure…

…and that’s why they grow beyond the norm.

You see, any artist, any researcher, and engineer understands that the creative design process starts with failure.

You don’t know the limit until you’ve pushed past the failure point. The key is what happens after the failure.

An outlier teacher analyzes the failure. She creates the fix. That’s where outlier innovations are born.

Fear of failure does not paralyze the outlier teacher. It motivates.

There is no Finish Line for Outlier Teachers

Outlier teachers pursue the process. There is a relentless obsession with creating solutions that reach students. This obsession will drive most colleagues crazy.

But then again, it’s “most” that creates the norm. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just statistics. Most is what average is about. Moving toward the center. That’s the definition of average.

Average teachers pursue a finish line. They seek an endpoint and stop when they arrive. 

Maybe the finish line is a coming holiday or summer break. It could be a state standardized test. Some finish lines are district benchmarks.

None of these finish lines are the end game for outlier teachers. They pursue more. Sometimes it is difficult to keep this pursuit in the flow and pressure of central tendency.

Outlier teachers are often accused of:

  • reinventing the wheel,
  • questioning too much,
  • going it alone,
  • and other criticisms that focus on the teacher and not on student results.

It’s the process that’s outliers are relentless about. They constantly push and challenge. They plug into their students’ needs and disrupt anything that stands in the way of meeting those needs.

They don’t wait on supervisors to prompt reflection.

Reflection is a state of mind. It’s a mental habit. It’s a necessity for outlier teachers. Just like coffee, water, chocolate, or Netflix…you know, the necessities.

Their reflection doesn’t always result in massive increases in performance or student results. Reflection doesn’t help them create large improvements in their practice.

It’s the tenacity of their reflection that creates improvement.

Day in and day out. Like a snowball. The reflection grows and builds.

Like evolution. It doesn’t happen overnight. It may not be noticeable to those around them daily. But it shows up in growth data.

Over time, reflective practice creates a powerhouse combo of strategy, affirmative data, and growing students.

My Takeaways for You

Who do you know that has the attribute and mindset of an outlier teacher? Who on your team exhibits the gritty application of growth mindset that our students need? How will you nourish and value your relationships with other outlier teachers? Together, we can shift the norms as outlier teachers.