Defining Moments, Mindset, and Moving Forward

Jami Fowler-WhiteBlog, Self Care Better, Teach Happier


  • We are living in a defining moment that will forever change the face of education as we know it.
  • In moments like this, mindset is what matters most.
  • Move through the change continuum more efficiently by attending to your emotions, setting goals, providing support, focusing on self-care, and trusting the plan.

Over the past month, countless educators have begun welcoming students into classrooms all across the states. I’m sure you have noticed a plethora of responses from teachers exhibiting their feelings regarding resuming in-person instruction as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread rapidly around the world.

As an educator and parent, I honestly don’t know where I stand on this topic. I’ll admit I am torn. While I understand the need to offer in-person instruction and will do all that I can for every student entrusted in my care, there are so many what-if scenarios running through my head that I can hardly focus on what is most important….educating students.

I know we can and will aim for greatness and achieve nothing less than something remarkable. In moments like this, mindset is what matters most. What strategies will you use to keep moving forward? Click To Tweet

As I sit here attempting to focus, I realize this is one of those defining moments that will forever change the face of education as we know it.

I have been in education for almost twenty-five years. I can’t say that I have ever been more nervous than I am at this particular moment. In forty-eight hours, my district will welcome students back inside of the building. It will be just seven days shy of one full calendar year.

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Now, I know what you are thinking. I should feel more prepared for this. After all, I have had 358 days to prepare for students to return. But truthfully, mentally I am far from it.

I should be focused on educating young minds. Frankly, I find myself mentally reviewing all of the protocols, expectations, guidelines, and mandates our school has devised to help keep everyone safe and healthy.

This has taken precedent over all other aspects of my job. At almost midnight, I woke with the urge to cross-check seating charts, the restroom break schedules, review pictures of classroom configurations, and the school-wide arrival and dismissal procedures.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I, the other members of our admin team, faculty, or staff have missed that one thing which may result in an unsafe learning environment for us all.

As I click to open the PowerPoint which outlines all of our school-wide procedures, it hits me this is a classic example of how fixed mindset triggers prevent you from reaching your full potential, achieving your ultimate goal, or simply MOVING FORWARD.

My first blog post for this series was on the two types of mindset that Dr. Carol Dweck discusses in her book, appropriately titled, Mindset. I’m reminded of a TEDx where she talks about the power of YET. Dr. Dweck talks about researching how children react when they face challenges that are just slightly more difficult than they are used to.

She speaks of times when students are not as successful as they thought. We should frame it to students by saying they simply haven’t reached their goal yet. In comparison to adults, specifically educators, we are embarking on unchartered territory. There are challenges ahead that we won’t be able to anticipate.

We must stop attempting to duplicate educational and school-wide practices pre-pandemic.

Life, our children, and even you and I are not the same people that we were one year ago. Every day for the past 358 days, we have endured continuous change, an unspoken type of trauma that has and will forever change the way we live, think, and learn. As we work to move forward, we simply just need to stop, breathe, and remember that our purpose is to educate children.

Yes, we have to follow the CDC guidelines and safety protocols. But when all is said and done, what matters most is that our students are learning. From this moment forward, I am going shift my thinking back to where it should have been all along…instruction, student needs, and helping my staff move forward. This is just one more step that brings us closer to achieving academic success for all students.

Don’t allow those fixed mindset triggers to persist. Push those triggers aside and replace them with “moving forward, I will…” What strategies will you use to refocus, recalibrate, reexamine, and reimagine the educational success of students in your classroom or school?

As we move forward, consider incorporating strategies to help you move through the change continuum more efficiently.

Attend to Your Emotions

In the book, Emotional Agility, author Susan David speaks about showing up. She says, “It is often said that 80 percent of success is simply showing up…Showing up means facing into your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors willingly, with curiosity and kindness” (p. 11). Don’t allow your thoughts to continue to replay like a broken record. Acknowledge and face them head-on so that you can move on.


Just as we have students do, I encourage each of you to set aside a few minutes each morning to construct academically focused targets for you to dedicate your time and energy to each day. Along with this, consider also using a few minutes in the evenings to reflect on your progress for each goal that you set. If you missed last month’s Better Mindset blog, it contained many helpful tips in this area.

Structure Support

Strive to support your colleagues or staff in putting children first. Our future depends on their ability to learn, grow, and achieve academic success. Encourage your team and colleagues to share successful strategies to support students throughout the building.

Focus on Self-Care

Practice mindfulness, exercise, and spend time with family or friends. I will be spending lots of time writing because it soothes my soul. The final chapter in the second volume of my book series contains many more options that educators can use to focus on self-care. If you are in need of some ideas, this book provides several resources and strategies to help you create a plan to routinely practice self-care.

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Trust in the Plan

You, your principal, and the rest of the staff at your school have been planning for this day for a long time. Trust in your school family and your ability to plan, monitor, and execute strategies that will ensure a safe, welcoming, academically-focused environment that builds a foundation for a better tomorrow.

This month’s blog post is not filled with as many research-based strategies as the ones that I traditionally write. I am sharing the tumultuous range of feelings that I have been experiencing. And I am reflecting on how I am working to overcome them. It is my hope that it may help us all begin to progress and do what we know is best for children and just teach.

I believe in each of you and want you to stop concentrating on the what-ifs. Believe in the power of forging ahead and welcoming those students, many who have not been successful during online instruction, back into our buildings so that they can regain a little bit of normalcy and begin to move one step closer to achieving academic success.  Remember this is a critical and defining moment in education.

When history documents the return of students to the classroom, we want to be remembered for our ability to adapt and move forward just as we did this same time last year when our world was forever changed. Educators stood up, stood out, and partnered to create remarkable virtual learning spaces.

Here we are once again working to do the unthinkable, the unimaginable. I know we can and will aim for greatness and achieve nothing less than something remarkable. In moments like this, mindset is what matters most. What strategies will you use to keep moving forward?


David, S. (2016). Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life.

Dweck, C. (2014). The Power of Believing You Can Improve.

Fowler-White, J. (2021). Educator Reflection Tips, Volume 2: Refining Our Practice

About Jami Fowler-White

Jami Fowler-White is the CEO of Digital PD 4 You, LLC. Over the past two decades, she has served in many capacities in education which include ten years as a classroom teacher, an Instructional Coach, and a Core Advocate with Achieve the Core. She currently mentors First-time and Renewal candidates for the National Board and is a charter member of the National Board Network of Minoritized Educators and Black Women Education Leaders, Incorporated.

Additionally, Mrs. Fowler-White is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and currently serves as an assistant principal in Shelby County Schools (TN). Fowler-White also provides professional development under the umbrella of the National Board and Digital PD 4 You for schools and districts.

She is the author/coauthor of several books including, Educator Reflection Tips, Volume #1, EduMatch’s Snapshots in Education 2020: Remote Learning Edition, The Skin You are In: Colorism in the Black Community, 2nd Edition, and Educator Reflection Tips, Volume II: Refining our Practice.

Jami blogs at , has a bi-monthly leadership blog on Insight Advance, and writes a monthly blog entitled the Better Mindset on She can be contacted via email at: and invites you to connect with her on Twitter via @JjJj821