What are things a flower needs to thrive and grow? We know when we give a flower things like water, air, and sunlight, it will grow because we are giving it things it needs. However, what happens if we don’t give a flower things it needs? It will no longer grow and will stop thriving. Our brains work in many similar ways. This was just one of the analogies I used when sharing the message of maintaining a growth mindset with our students recently.
Throughout the month of September, I had the opportunity to visit every K-5 classroom in our building and model a lesson to our students about a growth vs. fixed mindset. This concept was first introduced to our staff at the beginning of the year by our principal (@phaney10) and assistant principal (@MBRileyNCE). Further inspiration came from psychologist and author, Carol Dweck, and her book, Mindset. I felt the impact this message had on myself both personally and professionally, so I knew what I wanted to do as we kicked off the school year…share the power of our words! Not only is maintaining a growth mindset imperative to us as educators, it should also resonate deeply within each and every one of our students.
“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”~ Carol Dweck
“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities”~Carol Dweck
I loved the ability to differentiate my lessons dependent upon the grade level I was teaching; however, despite the activity or age of the student, the message remained constant, consistent, and more importantly, powerful! The ideas and conversations from our five-year-old students were just as insightful and impactful to those of our ten-year-old students. Some of the books that I shared with classrooms are seen below.
One of my favorite activities was when I played choose a side with each class towards the end of our lesson. One side of the room represented a fixed mindset, while the other side of the room represented a growth mindset. Students started in the center of the classroom and chose their side depending on the phrase I said. We started with phrases such as, “I’ll never be as smart as him” (fixed mindset) to “I made a mistake, but what can I do to improve next time?” (growth mindset). The one phrase that split the room in almost EVERY single classroom was the phrase “It’s good enough”. While I loved seeing the differing of opinions as students stood on either side of the room intently wondering if they were “right”, what I loved even more were the rationales given for why they were standing on the chosen side. Should our work ever be good enough? It was amazing to see the shift when I added “It’s good enough, BUT what could I do to make it EVEN better?”-Ah-ha! Transition emerged from what was thought by some to be a growth mindset to the realization that they were actually in a fixed mindset before adding a few more words. It’s a perfect example of how a growth mindset can impact our instruction each and every day.
Going along with the power of our words, I shared one word with all students that I hope they will continue to reiterate with themselves this year and every year going forward in their own educational journeys. The power of the word…YET! Do we all face challenges? Sure. Are there things that are difficult for us? Of course. That being said, if we are keeping a growth mindset, then we must continue to acknowledge and emphasize that just because we can’t do it now, we just can’t do it YET! All students set goals for themselves in their learning and what they would do to keep a growth mindset with their “yet” challenge.
Asking questions, making mistakes, taking risks, taking on challenges, practice/applying strategies, giving/accepting feedback…just a few of the things students, teachers, staff, and administrators encounter on a day-to-day basis. We all have various roles within our building, but at the end of the day, we all share the same end goal which helps make our school “team” even stronger…
Foster the growth mindset, squander the fixed mindset.