Drive, Growth Mindset, and Spoken Word Poetry

One of my most biggest, and least-shared, joys in life is to write poetry and draw pictures in a journal – characters and scribbles that lend a voice to the unscripted thoughts in my head. I find myself captivated by words and pictures and how they convey a meaning. I look to the works of Emily Dickinson and Salvador Dali, mostly because as I grow older, their works convey new meanings that resonate with me unlike when I was younger.

I came across this video of Sarah Kay, a spoken-word poet, and I was instantly inspired by her as well. And then I rewatched the video and realized how much she was a reflection of Drive by Daniel Pink. Her first poem, “If I Should Have a Daughter…”, calls to mind a mother who gives her child wings to fly and save the world but a grounded foundation that lets her know she can return home when it gets too rough before she goes out and tackle it all again.

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose ring throughout Kay’s talk of her journey to spoken-word poetry. Her parents empowered her to follow her dreams, even when it took her to poetry clubs in Lower East Side. She kept writing, discovering herself, and watching as her poetry and her voice found one another. And she found a purpose – to entertain, educate, and inspire with her work in Project V.O.I.C.E. Her anecdote of a student named Charlotte is a scenario I see in my own classroom – students who believe they can’t do something. But we must never give up on them, even when they give up on themselves. Eventually they will see the greatness we see in them and trust that we, as teachers and leaders, will be there to guide them.

I love how she broke her journey up into three stages: I Can, I Will, and Who Am I? It often seems that most people go through those stages in reverse: finding their identity, deciding on a course of action, and then completing their goal. Kay argues you first need to believe you can do something and then work towards it. In the process you will find out who you really are.

Teachers are inspiring and, while we face seemingly insurmountable workloads, we must always believe we can do it. Knowing we can do it will empower us to do it. Yes, we will hit those bumps in the road and struggle, but those are merely put there to test that our resolve is still intact. We need those negatives to make the positives more brilliant and confirm for us that our purpose is stronger than ever. We need those reminders, in students like Charlotte, who make all of our struggles worth it. We are all working to find our greatest self.


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