The Moments That Change Us: Education and Mindset

Here is an ugly truth.  It is unlikely that you, or anyone else, will experience a formative moment every day.  If we are not careful, however, we can go whole days, weeks, or (GASP) months without a formative moment.  As someone who fancies himself a life-long learner, the prospect of going weeks, or even months, without an awe-inspiring moment seems preposterous.  Realistically, however, I know that it has happened as I have forgotten to be cognizant of the world around me.

As I previously stated about teacher self-care, teachers need to take the time to learn in the summer.  For me, that learning takes two thematic tracks: teacher mindfulness and instructional coaching. Clearly, there is a natural connection between the two.  The books I chose to read this summer, contain many formative tidbits. However, what I realized today is that I need to stop worrying about the formative.  I need to worry about the transformative.

Formative vs. Transformative

According to, formative activities are those that, “…by themselves leave our perception of the world unchanged,” whereas transformative activities are those that, “…give birth to our inner potential and allow us to do more, think more, feel more – be more.”  I love this idea.

Think of it this way.  You are reading a book on mindfulness.  It is called Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness.  It has many great suggestions on how to implement and teach mindfulness.  Furthermore, it even has a step-by-step process for you. You read the book and you think to yourself, “That has some great ideas.  I should try one.” This book provided a formative moment as it added a layer to think about, but it did not fundamentally change you.  Then you read another book called, Hacking Leadership.  You read the book and suddenly a transformative moment happens.  Where you could have read the book, taken its (AMAZING) ideas, and moved on, you connect the dots. After reading the two books, your viewpoint fundamentally shifts and you have changed.

Welcome to my summer thus far.  I have gone from knowing I need to change to changing my mindset altogether.  The proof will be in the pudding come August, but a changing mindset is important to the transformation process.

Here is what I want to stress to you.  In the opening of this piece, I suggest that people may go for a long time without formative moments.  This is, possibly, still true.  However, I would like to add an addendum to my argument.  Every moment is formative if you pay enough attention it. Furthermore, the more mindful you are of each individual moment (I told you I have been reading), the more likely you are to find a transformative moment.

The Takeaway

I am reminded, once again, that education is the most human of professions.  It relies on intellect, emotion, problem-solving, and deep passion.  And yet, the things on which teachers most often focus are ultimately irrelevant to personal improvement or what’s best for students.  Test scores don’t ultimately matter.  Data walls and name-and-claims don’t ultimately matter.  Professional growth goals don’t matter.  Transforming into a professional who best serves students is what matters.  Aiding students in their pursuit to transform into something more is what matters.

As we get tired and as the year continues, it will be harder to be intentional in trying to move from formative moments to transformative moments.  However, remember this: our uniquely human profession exists in an extraordinary, rich world.  All things considered, we have an immense opportunity.  I ask that each of you become aware.  I ask that each of you slow down.  Lastly, I ask that we all be mindful of the small moments that influence us in order to truly transform.  Forget about the things that don’t matter and focus on those that do.  Most importantly, enjoy the ride and don’t forget to look up at the light bulb going off above your own head.  After all, isn’t it fun to see it above your students’ heads?  Remember to have fun with yours, too.


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