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Helping People Tip Toward a Growth Mindset
It is really exciting to learn about the concept of a growth mindset at first; it makes so much sense! "Yes! When we believe we can improve, we take action to do so, and we get smarter - we change. It's so simple!"
Except it isn't. At some point, we find ourselves thinking, but wait a minute. If it's this simple, why is it that I know so many people who do not change at all? And how come, even when we share growth mindset concepts with some people, it does not seem to make any difference? What is going on here?
It might be easy at that point to blame the fixed mindset, label the person and move on. But that doesn't have to be our choice, and it certainly isn't tapping into our own growth mindsets to take that tact.
There are good reasons why many people are not changing much. Here are four reasons that I've learned about. Later I will share what these look like and what can be done about it.
While teaching in California, I had a unique teaching assignment: Honors English 9 and Reading 10. So my school day went from thinking about how to hold "high-achieving" students to a high level of challenge in an honors environment to actually doing the same thing for "underachieving" students in a remedial environment. I loved the challenge and experience of watching non-readers become successful readers, writers and speakers while also pushing the higher performing students to stretch themselves to reach greater heights.
At times though I was discouraged by the underachievement of all of my students, as well as by my colleagues' messages about them. Colleagues told me to be happy with the honors students work when I KNEW they could do better. Or to accept the Reading students sub-par efforts when I ALSO knew they could do better.
It is finally summer, and I am ready to enjoy all the wonderful things that come with this season. Many educators, although we continue to work here and there, also get to use these weeks for play, rejuvenation, and growth.
Schools sometimes feel as if they go a mile-a-minute. At any time, there could be nearly one hundred things that I could be doing. I could work the entire summer, eight hours a day, and still not feel caught up. I had a former principal who said that a school year is like getting into a race car and driving it as fast as you can until you run it into a brick wall in June. Then you get out, shake your head, and say, “Let’s do that again!”
So during the summer it’s vital for educators to focus on giving themselves what they will need to sustain their energy during the school year. Breaking the routine and trying something new can be a great way to refresh. In which of the following areas would YOU most like to grow in these next weeks?
"Mindset opened my eyes to the possibilities in education to be systematic in creating real change for human beings." -Emily Diehl
We lead because we have a passion for our work. But leading in a complex system can get confusing, overwhelming, and discouraging sometimes. Rather than resort to seductively easy ways to manage there are times we can choose to truly lead, capture people's hearts, and reignite passion!
I guest-teach in an intervention class twice a week and my partner always tells the students: "You can choose the behavior, but what you cannot choose is the consequences of that behavior." This absolutely applies to leaders as well. In school improvement, decision-making that results in change is very challenging to execute. Plus, that challenge is compounded by the sheer number of decisions that we must make every day.
Understandably, sometimes we aren't making the most growth-minded choices. After all, we still have to get the work done! Leaders often have to make strategic choices in managing and leading because decisions need to be made, deadlines met, and students placed in classes. At the same time, it is important to know the consequences of those choices. If leaders are hyper-aware of the likely consequences of their decisions, then a fixed-minded choice can be turned in to a growth minded one at a later date, upon reflection, and with a cooler head.