Behavior matters: Fostering a successful mindset

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest post by Justin Foster 

As an elementary school counselor, one of the favorite parts of my job is teaching my guidance lessons. During a guidance lessons a counselor will touch on topics such as citizenship, friendship, anger management, and how to deal with bullying to name just a few. Generally my lessons have a theme for the year and build off the previous lesson. My goal is to conduct one lesson a month for each grade level (my school is K-4).

I am a big proponent of personal responsibility and while that may seem simplistic, something we can all agree upon, base off of stories I have seen recently in the news dealing with young people in schools and bad behavior this is not the case. In my opinion there is an epidemic of violence in schools involving students against each other, and students towards school staff members. This is something that for some reason does not get the attention in the media that it should. This violence impacts the quality of our young people’s education and needs to be address more on a national level. This will no doubt have an impact on the economic well being of many communities and our nation as a whole.

For me teaching students how their behavior affects them and those around them is just as important as teaching manipulatives in math or decoding words. Teaching coping skills and conflict resolution are some of the most important things one will learn in school. One of the issues that I have seen through my career in education is that there are far too many parents who don’t foster and nurture a mindset of school success in their children. School too many times is seen as a necessary evil or something that is just done by going through the motions. Waking up, going to school and coming home is not all there is to receiving the best education possible. School must be looked upon as a vehicle for future advancement and success in society.

Fostering a Mindset

The dictionary defines mindset as a mental attitude or inclination and a fixed state of mind. Working off this definition the attitude that must be taken by all regarding school is that it is for students of school age one of the most important things in their lives. A mindset that views the school experience as one that works best when rules are followed and respect is shown at all times no matter our emotions at a particular moment is critical.

Just in the past three weeks I have seen stories of students assaulting teachers, students refusing to comply with simple school rules and authority. I have watch several YouTube videos showing students fighting each other in school while peers just stand around and in many cases record them. What type of mindset or attitude says it is normal to disobey simple request such as putting away a cell phone in class or that body slamming a principal is appropriate in any form? Who among us really thinks that a school with such chaos and mayhem on a regular basis is an environment that is conducive to learning at an optimum level? Respect, both respect of self and others is one of the most important qualities any school aged student must have in order to reach their full academic and individual life potential.

This has to be instilled at home by parents and caregivers. All the guidance lessons in the world can’t counterbalance parental apathy or parents that do not regularly discuss with their students how important education is and how their attitude towards school will impact their success. No matter how much you may not like your neighborhood school for whatever reasons, it is important to view it as a place that for now is preparing your student for success. Many of us have had bad experiences at the dentist or at a hospital, but we still understand the need for both. Believe it or not most teachers in public education teach because they love the profession.

A certain reverence should come with this role, a reverence that in times gone by was more prevalent, that now sadly is not. Engaging with young people of all races and backgrounds gives most educators tremendous satisfaction. For me as a male educator I love not only teaching my content area but also serving as a role model to students of all races and backgrounds and teaching them the importance of their behavior and why it matters. In order to succeed academically behavior matters!


Justin A. Foster currently works as a public school counselor in Pennsylvania and has over a decade of experience working with youth and families in both public and private education. Justin is a speaker, author, and educational consultant who enjoys working with students, parents, community leaders and others with a vested interest in being positive influences in the lives of our young people. You can contact him at or on twitter @ justincounsels

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