Having a Growth Mindset

My staff started off the year with a discussion about growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.  We watched the following Ted Talk and discussed what it means to actually believe that “some people are born smart.”

This shift in thinking and shift in our language is much harder than it may seem.  Often times teachers or parents tell a child “good job, you’re really good at that.”  This sends the message that you’re either good at something or bad at it.  On the flip side, a growth mindset message would say “good job, you worked really hard.”  It’s about the effort, the work, the motivation, not “you’re smart.”

This is deep stuff!  It’s engrained in our society, adults everywhere tell children and each other things like “I’m not a math person.”  Man… I think that and say it all the time.  Well really it’s not that I can’t do math, it’s that I don’t enjoy it and it doesn’t come as easy for me as other skills or subjects.  Somewhere along the way all these messages are getting jumbled up.

I had a real conversation today with a student in my class who doesn’t think he can draw.  This particular child loves to finish first, at everything.  He just kept repeating “I can’t draw, I’m not good at it.”  I sat down with him and asked, “does drawing come a little harder for you than other things?”  Just because it’s harder doesn’t mean we can’t do it.  I told him that running is hard for me.  I have to really work and exercise and eat right in order to run long distances.  I’d much rather dance, do kickboxing, or cycling.  It doesn’t mean I CAN’T run, it just takes a little more effort.  I have to concentrate just like he has to concentrate and work a little harder to draw.  I’m not sure he liked my response, or the fact that he needed to try his drawing again 🙂  But it’s possible that he’s never had a conversation like that before.

As a teacher, our responsibility list seems never ending.  I want to move this to the top of my list.  It’s real!  I’ve caught myself sending the wrong message.  I want to work on my ability to convey this message to my students, build it into our classroom community intentionally.  As my understanding of this topic deepens, I’ll be sure to share!  Please feel free to comment with your own thoughts, ideas or suggestions!

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1 Response to Having a Growth Mindset

  1. tmckee219 says:

    We also watched the TEDTalk you posted at the beginning of our school year too! Our principal has reminded us of the growth mindset vs. fixed mindset throughout the year – it’s been a very powerful reminder of how we speak and interact with our students. I love the example you gave about having a conversation with the student in your class about his drawing – what a great real life example! I think you did a great job explaining it in a way that he could understand, incorporating a simple but strong example.

    One way I’ve thought about promoting the growth mindset involved the students identifying something they don’t feel particularly ‘good’ about – a skill, sport, academic subject, etc. – then working to set a goal to achieve improvement in that category. This allows the students to set goals for themselves, while maintaining a growth mindset – knowing that they may not be the best at something, but also knowing they can improve.


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