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On-Site Staff / Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

 Fostering a Growth Mindset

I remember extending my right hand up in the air and waving it feverishly. I thought today “I had enough” after being ignored by my fourth-grade teacher too many times, today was the day I was going to speak up. Each day, I eagerly raised my hand to answer a question only to be overlooked. (Know that this is my fourth-grade perception of things.) I would watch her peer out into the classroom and scan all the buzzing hands, including mine, hoping she’d pick me. Ugh! Again, I thought, “she only picks the ones that get answers right all the time.”

I shouted, “You keep overlooking my hand! CAN YOU please pick me?!” She sensed my anger and asked me to step out of the classroom so that we could talk. In the hallway, she asked, “Tiana, what’s wrong?” I responded with sass, but also with personal awareness. I told her: “I know I get some of the answers wrong, but I get some right too. Why don’t you pick me more often?”

When I was in college, I was a substitute teacher at my old elementary school. To my surprise, I bumped into my fourth grade teacher, she still taught fourth grade and was retiring soon. We chatted a bit. “Tiana, things changed after our talk in the hallway.” She grinned, warmly, she said: “from then on, you were a great student.”

I think our conversation helped her see that I wanted to be a great student.

This story points out that early on I understood the power of a growth mindset. Carol Dweck coined the term Growth Mindset. Carol Dweck, who studies perceptions about learning and intellect, observed that people who feel that their intelligence can change and grow perform better than people who think that their intelligence is fixed. At a very young age, I was ok with using my pencil eraser, falling off my bike, struggling to understand long division, because I knew eventually with time, patience, and work I would finally get things right.

I bet you are wondering; how do you teach a growth mindset? A few simple ways are by pointing out your own mistakes and shortcomings.

  • Allow children to see you get things wrong, but let them see you hunt for the right answer. 
  • Share stories from your childhood.
  • Allow the story to reveal how you were feeling frustrated with something, and were ready to give up, but you preserved.
  • Honesty helps children see that even adults and parents once had a hard time but persevered. In addition to sharing stories, give them new language that fosters resilience and overcoming failure.

Check out the poster “ In our Classroom We Say”

For breakfast, I had OJ and a chicken biscuit. 

Author: @tiana-brown

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