The Beginner's Mind: Learning to take risks

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As a kid, do you remember the first time you took the training wheels off and tried to ride your first bicycle?  In the beginner’s mind, it was the next step in being a big kid, and it meant being open to making mistakes and being willing to take a huge risk. 

Years later, I can remember feeling the same way when I began teaching my first yoga class.  Again, in my beginner’s mind, I had the same butterflies in my stomach.  I had the same jittery legs, a similar mindset, and those sweaty palms that showed up to accompany me on my new adventure.  I was older and wiser, so I knew I was outside of my comfort zone and had to dismiss my nerves to just do it.  Although I made mistakes that day, I recognized my own courage and bravery in trying something new. 

It’s like the first year I taught Shurley English.   Once I understood its methodology, it became like a second language to me.  Sure, I felt the butterflies…because it was new!  It was new to my students too.  They also had the beginner’s mind, and I always tried to be mindful of that anytime I taught something new. 

With practice, my students learned to speak up, to find their voice in writing, and to become competent, confident communicators!  That’s a huge deal.  It all starts by recognizing how it feels to learn something new—and with practice—to move beyond the beginner’s mind

I learned that practice doesn’t always make perfect, but practice does make progress and growth.  Being outside of your comfort zone is where the real growth happens, and that takes practice.

You have the unique opportunity, as a teacher, to create an environment that encourages students to take risks.  When your students see you work outside of your comfort zone, trying something new, they will be more likely to do the same.  Shurley English allows you to teach much more than language arts.  So, be compassionate and kind and never forget what it feels like to try something new.  Always strive to teach and learn from a beginner’s mind, and grow from there.


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Lesson Planning: Embracing the Beginner’s Mind

The beginning of a new grading period or unit of study is the perfect time to have a quick lesson discussing the beginner’s mind. Give each student a pink eraser to remind him/her that learning is about progress, not perfection.  The pink eraser serves as a reminder that it’s okay to take risks. 

  • Place an eraser on each desk without an explanation. 

  • Begin a class discussion about taking risks, being outside of your comfort zone, and trying something new. 

  • Create a bulletin board, journal writing prompt, or implement a daily/weekly share-time designed to celebrate being a beginner. 

  • Don’t forget to celebrate your growth as a teacher….you’re amazing!