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A Teacher’s Mindset

mentor motivation Feb 20, 2021

by Dave Kovar 


It has been my experience that you share with others what you most need to hear yourself. Today, I’m going to share with you what I call “teacher’s mindsets.” These are specific mindsets that I have made a conscious effort to adopt, especially when I’m interacting with students. Although I still have a long way to go, they have enabled me to make great strides with my students.

We all have a series of beliefs about how a classroom works and how we work within it. Unfortunately, most of us don’t consciously choose our mindsets. They come to us. We pick them up from the environment we were brought up in, the education we received and the experiences we’ve had.

Let’s imagine that in third grade, you ran a foot race with two kids from your class. Unbeknownst to you, these kids were the fastest sprinters in all of third grade. You gave it your best shot and still trailed behind them. Your perception of your running skills would be completely different than if you were paired off with the two slowest kids in third grade and you took an easy first place. These are the kinds of experiences that shape our mindsets and, with that, the entire trajectory of our lives. Unfortunately, these experiences are not always in line with reality.

Here’s what I mean: When my 92-year-old mother was in first grade, she was told not to sing too loudly and to stand at the back of the choir because her voice wasn’t very good. She’s had that belief for her whole life. I never heard her sing until a couple of years ago when dementia began to take away most of her memory and all of her inhibitions. Now she sings all the time. And guess what? She actually has a pretty good voice. She missed out on 85 years of singing because of a mindset that she acquired based on something somebody said to her when she was a child.

It’s important to remember that as instructors, some of the mindsets we have regarding teaching are powerful and serve us well. Others, not so much. Here I’ll share five teaching mindsets that I try to put to work on a regular basis.


  • Make others feel important when you’re in their presence. We all appreciate being appreciated. A simple and sincere, “Hello, it’s great to see you,” goes a long way.


  • Notice the good work of others. How often do we see progress in our students and then forget to tell them? Don’t hesitate to give your students a genuine compliment whenever they deserve one.


  • Seek first to understand and then to be understood. More than once, I’ve become frustrated with a student I thought was “acting out.” Only later did I find out that there were certain circumstances in that student’s life that made the behaviors and actions fully understandable. I recommend all instructors adopt the same approach to understanding others.


  • Choose your battles wisely. Pope John Paul II once said, “See everything, overlook a lot, correct a little.” If we nitpick our students too much, they’ll stop listening and miss out on important details.


  • Bring value to all your relationships. I try to think of small gestures of kindness that I can do every day, not just for my students but for their families, as well. It makes everyone feel important, and when you do that, you improve your school, your teaching style and the martial education your students receive.


To contact Dave Kovar, send an email to [email protected].

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