Our Principal was talking about this concept during one of our Teacher Development days. I was familiar with the book by Carol Dweck only because someone recommended it to me a week ago and I ordered a copy. The session we went through was like reading a Cliff Notes version of her book. I still plan to read it fully when I get my copy so I don’t miss anything vital, but here are a few things I came away with from our Principal:
- There are 2 mindsets. One is fixed and one is growth.
- Our beliefs and our focus drive the outcomes in a positive or negative direction.
- A fixed mindset says we are born this way and we basically don’t change much when it comes to talents and abilities. A growth mindset says you can change, learn and adapt to new things far beyond what you may currently be able to do. It changes the focus from “now” to “not yet.” Just because they can’t do it now does not mean they won’t be able to do it in the future!
- A fixed mindset is difficult to introduce new things to because they resist change and are worried about how they look to others. They tend to argue their point and live their lives in a state of defeat. A growth mindset is open to exploring new things and willing to converse about differences to find solutions that are out there. Their attitude is: We just haven’t discovered them all yet. Let’s find one that works.
She challenged us to think about students we had taught in the past that had a fixed mindset and asked us to brainstorm about how we could have helped them move to a growth mindset.
For me, it was pretty easy to think of the kid who stuck out in class like a sore thumb. He was a rebel at heart and unwilling to try new things. He resisted just about everything we tried with him. This was frustrating for me, my co-teacher, other teachers and coaches that interacted with him, the classmates he had, and for him especially. I don’t think anyone is really happy living with a fixed mindset. They just don’t have a clue as to how to change it.
I wish I could tell you that we had a miraculous breakthrough with him, but unfortunately that was not the case. His trouble at home was apparent and he carried the weight of that dysfunction on his shoulders. He spent more time in the Principal’s office than he did in class (at least it seemed that way). I don’t know how he fared on the STARR test, but I would be shocked if he passed it.
My goal this year is to find ways to help kids look at things differently, help them experience some success in doing so, and then repeat it until they see a positive pattern. I want to instill in them the “not yet” mentality. I try to develop relationship with all the kids, but there are some that will not respond no matter what I do or say. I get that. Those are the kids that keep me up at night…thinking about what I could do differently to reach them. I wish I had a magic wand or a pill that we could take that just fixed everything, but as we all know, that does not exist.
I know that at the very least, I have to model a growth mindset myself. I have to be positive, willing to look at things differently, and open to discussing things that may be quite different from what I know or how I feel. If I can learn to master this for myself, who knows? Maybe….just maybe I will reach the next kid that comes to school overwhelmed, worn out, and disengaged. I pray this is the case as I work on fixing myself first. I am not there yet, but I am working in it.