Part I of the series, Using a Growth Mindset to Advance Healthy Schools

Another school year has begun! There’s likely a flurry of activity at your school as people settle into a new schedule with a full agenda of things to learn and do.

If you’re focused on making your school more sustainable and green, you may have your own list of ideas and goals for the year. Rock on!

Yet, while you might be energized and ready to go green, others around you might be swimming in the sea of settling into school.

So how do you help others motivate to make the space in the full days to focus on school sustainability? Here are three thoughts:

think positive1. Focus on the positive. A lot comes down to how ideas are communicated. No one wants to be part of things that are a drag – making an idea sound fun is an effective motivator.

For example – I’m really passionate about creating outdoor learning spaces at my elementary school. Such spaces support students’ academic learning, physical development, and mental health.

But if I said the following to the teachers, I wouldn’t get much interest: “Our school is so bad at offering outdoor learning experiences – we can’t even get a single class to meet outdoors! Our students are suffering. Come on, let’s get started.”

So instead, I put together a presentation featuring inspiring outdoor settings in other nearby schools and complementing the spaces. The principal invited me to share this with our teachers. I got “oos” and “aahs” from the staff, and traction is building to start creating these settings! Whoo hoo!

big journeys begin with small steps2. Plan small steps. I wanted to bring in stumps for outdoor seating and plant trees the first year at my school.

Well woah, woah, woah. Too fast! Too much! It takes time to change the culture of a school. Instead, over the last two years, I shared articles with the principal and teachers featuring these ideas, invited them to local events, and held afterschool activities where students could experience nature on school grounds. Inspiration and motivation slowly brewed.

This is where having an action plan pays off!

changes take time3. Remember that change takes time. I am regularly surprised at how slow it takes to change behaviors. Even when people want to do what you are proposing, sometimes bureaucracy, time and money just slow the whole process down.

Keep in mind that it is normal for real change to take time. It may be frustrating because you see how much better things could be and that you can’t make it happen fast enough. But stick with it, and truly acknowledge the small victories you are gaining. You can’t live every day waiting to achieve that big goal – enjoy the journey and the progress you make, and have fun along the way. Keep going!


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