Changing the Mindset Community of Opportunity: Part 3

It's a sunny afternoon in late August. Gary students are not back in school yet, but teachers are returning from their own summer break. Adults drift in through the doors at Gary's West Side Leadership Academy, spot their friends and colleagues and rush in for a hug – just like it probably was when they were in high school. Small groups start to form, congregating around folding tables stacked with snacks and bottled water.

One young woman leans against a wall by herself, looking over a sheet of paper with her weekly schedule written on it. There are a handful of people just like her dotting the outskirts of the room, singles not joining in the hugs & the "welcome back's" around the coffee table: the new teachers.

The young woman's name is Lauren Moore – this will be her first year teaching in the Gary Community School Corporation. It will also be her first year teaching. She will head a class of kindergarteners at the Bethune Early Childhood Development Center.

"My aunt taught in Gary for 37 years and my uncle, he subbed for Gary for 12 years, and they both retired last year," Moore explains. "When I went to their retirement banquet, they announced, ‘hey we have a lot of job positions opening. If you know anybody who can fill those positions let them know.’ So I started moving in this direction."

"My aunt always says really nice things about it," Moore relays. "If she stayed there for 37 years, it must be a pretty good place to work!"

Moore’s aunt fits what’s been the typical profile for Gary’s teaching force: they stick around.

GCSC Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt says she’s excited about adding members of the next generation of teachers.

"We did have an aged teaching staff – I think that because Gary was on top so long, they forgot to plan and keep moving," Pruitt says. "You got to get out of what you think and what you been doing for 40 years and we gotta move over here, or else you need to go home."

So, like many things in the Gary Community School Corporation, the district's teaching force is changing. For the first time in 20 or 30 years, a big group of Gary’s teachers are moving on, creating openings for new blood. While the rest of the state struggles with a teacher shortage, we don’t know what that will look like in Gary. One has to wonder: with the way the district and its city have been struggling, how much talent will they actually be able to recruit?

Pruitt is encouraging people to move on – and if they don’t, she’s training them to be better. And she’s bringing in a nationally recognized development group, the International Center for Leadership in Education, to help those remaining come up with new strategies, to get out of the habits they may have been stuck in for years.

Scenes from GCSC's professional development sessions. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

The crux of what ICLE preaches is something Pruitt wants every member of her staff to grasp: the teaching mindset. They emphasize growth, over what ICLE founder Bill Daggett calls a “fixed mindset.”

"A fixed mindset is this: ‘I know we need to improve, and what we will do is work really hard at doing a better job of what we used to do,’" Daggett explains. "There is a second mindset, and the second mindset is this. You put a stake in the ground 3 to 5 years out, try to define the best you can what kids will need to know, do and be like to become independent as adults."

On that same sunny afternoon in August, teachers old and new are indoors, crammed together in groups of about five or six in a small classroom at West Side high school. They’re participating in a professional development session designed for school administration teams – principals, deans, assistant principals and the like.

Dr. Irving Jones leads the group in the various reflection exercises, asking questions and encouraging conversation among colleagues. Jones is one of ICLE’s senior educational consultants. This is his third year working with Gary. He and other members of ICLE’s management team will be spending time on and off within various district schools to help staff make some changes in the way they deal with kids – and, Jones says, the way they think about teaching.

Dr. Irving Jones leads a professional development session with GCSC administrative teams. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)
"The reality is, it that it takes work – particularly in areas where you have a lot of social issues as you do here in Gary," Jones explains. "The key idea behind developing a strong school culture is getting buy-in from all the teachers so that they support the needs of all the students and the school."

Jones will help Superintendent Pruitt push a growth mindset with her team. It’s something the district is looking for in making new hires like Lauren Moore

And Moore appears to have the same idea in mind. She says her goal for this first year of teaching is to take everything she learned in college, put it into action, and evaluate what she needs to do to get better.

"I want to see what the book says against how the real world actually works, and see if maybe I can improve and get better and get better," Moore says. "That’s my goal for every year, is just to be better than the person I was last year."

Created By
Rachel Morello
Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.