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Mindset in Action: Jennifer Maichin, from Mineola Middle School, NY, shares her experience, tips and classroom activities to introduce students to the growth mindset
I always wanted to teach. I dreamed of inspiring and empowering every student who entered my classroom. I imagined all students walking into school highly motivated and eager to learn. Reality of course was different. Mindset not only helped me get the class I always wanted, but also reminded me why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place.
For the past 16 years, I have had the privilege of spending my school days teaching 11 through 14 year olds with learning challenges. These students are interesting and unique and, yes, they are challenging to teach. People sometimes ask me: “How do you do it? Do you feel successful? Do you feel like you actually get through to them? What motivates them? What is the best way to engage them and get them to want to learn? Why bother? They don't listen anyway...”
How, then, do I get through to them?
Jill Balzer, Principal at Charles Patterson Middle School in Killeen, TX, on how Mindset transformed their school culture
Charles Patterson Middle School is located in Killeen, Texas which is also home to one of the largest military institutions in the world, Fort Hood. Our student population is diverse; 44% are Active Military, 40% are economically disadvantaged, 38% are African American, 31% White, 27% Hispanic, and 4% Asian/Pacific Islander. The wide array of social, cultural, and economic backgrounds provides the students and teachers at CPMS with unique opportunities. With this variety in life experiences and an annual mobility rate of over 40% comes the constant search by our staff to look for ways to improve the quality of our students’ lives. We believe that this is best accomplished by giving them tools that they will be able to take with them wherever they may go.
Trail Ridge Middle School, CO – Case Study
“Brainology teaches kids to take ownership of their learning experience by being the one doing the work… it teaches them that doing work is a really positive thing because it’s going to help them to become smarter."
Marnie Steele is a 7th grade science teacher at Trail Ridge Middle School in Longmont, Colorado. The student demographic consists of 42.7% free and reduced lunch and 42.7% Hispanic, and there are a significant number of ELL students.
Marnie has found that many of her kids would get into a habit of always failing: they became used to doing poorly and didn’t think they would ever get better. After reading the book Mindset by Carol Dweck, Marnie wanted to incorporate the Growth Mindset into her classroom, specifically to teach her ELL students about the learning process. She was specifically interested in seeing whether it would help the ELL students to understand that by investing effort, they would become smarter and perform better in school.
How did a public school increase their number of honor roll students by 15% in one year? In our August newsletter, Charles Patterson Middle School Principal Jill Balzer shared how her students had achieved significant improvements in test scores and academic abilities following the school-wide adoption of mindset practices and the implementation of the Brainology program.
Last month, Jill and her school were recognized by the Texas School Business Bragging Rights publication for the improvements they’ve made, which Jill attributes to their creation of a Growth Mindset school culture. Each year, this publication, which has over 25,000 readers, receives nominations from hundreds of schools so this is a great achievement. Please join us as we congratulate Jill Balzer and her teachers, staff and students for their hard work!
My former student David Yeager and I have been very concerned about violence in school. The problem in high school gets worse. People are shifting social groups; social labels are flying around, and kids are really stressed. If you add to this the common belief that people can’t change—that everyone is fixed in their roles and that you are always going to be picked on or always going to be a loser— then the conflagrations begin.
In other words, we realized that students’ beliefs play an important role in this. In our study, we saw that many students believe that people are just fixed. They believe that if you are a bully you’ll always be a bully and if you are a victim you’ll always be a victim. When these students are picked on, they feel like losers, ashamed of themselves, and they desire violent retaliation.
David Yeager created a training program that taught students a growth mindset, the idea that people’s behavior is due to thoughts and feelings that can be changed. Then we brought students into a situation where they were excluded and they had the opportunity to retaliate against the excluder. We showed that kids who have the growth mindset intervention were 40% less likely to retaliate and 2-3 times as likely to engage in pro-social behavior than students who did not receive the training. Furthermore, their teachers reported much improved conduct in the classroom, students’ attendance at school was better, and their suspensions were way down.