Living in a Beginner’s Mindset

As I wrote about last month, being in a new job is hard. There is so much to learn, new people to work with, and challenges that arise. It is a change that can be scary and overwhelming, so much so that often many people will not take the leap even if they are unhappy in their job. Comfort sometimes trumps happiness. Sticking with what you know and what you’ve done is easier

But what if being new was a mindset that everyone adopted, even when we aren’t? For several years now, I have participated in a concept we created at Bay View Middle School called BVOW. It stands for Bay View One Word. It comes from the One Word movement created to eliminate the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions often fail, but choosing one word is a simple concept – pick one word for the year that you live by. Then see your life transform. We started BVOW at Bay View to help us with professional transformations. The great thing about the One Word concept is it really causes you to reflect. A lot. Before, during, and after you choose your word. That’s really where the transformation comes in.

In my recent reflections, I started to think about all of the great things that come with being new. The way that you look at things changes. You don’t have that comfort of going through the motions or already knowing the answers to all of the questions. There is a feeling inside of you that makes you stop and listen, seek understanding, and look at things that you never have before. I felt like the best way to describe this feeling was with the word WONDER. Wonder as in a sense of awe, but also wonder as in seeking answers. And just like every year before, I really thought that I had just picked my one word.

I truly believe that often our biggest fear with being new, or any change in general, is a temporary loss in control. It feels safe to know that we have everything handled. Even when it comes to choosing a one word, I feel a security in deciding how I am going to impact my work for the year. But I never seem to get that security, as my real one word comes forth to make its presence known. It always chooses me, no matter how much I think I’ve got it handled.

This year was no different. As I approached the year believing my word would be wonder, I happened to literally stumble upon my real one word. (Full disclosure – I never really seem satisfied after choosing my one word, so I often go looking again.) Many times in my search for a word, I encounter beautiful foreign words. Foreign words often embody meanings that go beyond what our words in English can. They are deep and full of energy. I have always decided against choosing one, until this year.

In the spirit of being new, I have decided to let the word SHOSHIN choose me. Shoshin is the first of four Zen states of mind and it means the Beginner’s Mind. Shoshin is the act of letting go of preconceived notions and looking at things from a fresh perspective. It opens our minds to new ideas and possibilities, creativity and innovation, and acceptance of your and others true selves. I found this quote particularly impactful on my research of this concept:

“If your mind is empty, it is ready for anything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” –ZEN MASTER SHUNRYU SUZUKI

What if we all worked at having a beginner’s mindset? How might things be different? What would we see that we often don’t? I feel privileged to be exploring those very questions this school year.



About amyarbo

My name is Amy Arbogash and I am currently the Director of Technology and Personalized Learning for the Verona Area School District. I have five years of prior experience as a Technology Integration Specialist at Bay View Middle School in the Howard Suamcio School District. I also have an additional 11 years experience in the 5th and 6th grade classroom at HSSD prior to my work as a specialist. Throughout my years in the classroom, I taught every core subject area and students from all backgrounds. I am a Google Educator in Google Apps and Chrome, a national speaker on educational topics, a teacher and leader at heart, a tech nerd by practice, and someone who thinks she can move education forward. This blog is dedicated to the students, parents, colleagues, friends, and family who I have learned from and been inspired by. You all have and continue to make me a better person. All blog posts and opinions expressed are my own.
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