Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Imperative of the Growth Mindset #SAVMP

photo by Dennis Flood
There is a great deal on the line with having or not having a mindset of growth that has a tremendous impact and potential for our community, both in the now and in the future.  In writing this post (which took a considerable amount of time...lots to think about here) I may have just stumbled across some new focus points for this new year.  Being challenged to dig a little deeper into the growth mind and how to promote that within my realm of influence, I've hit a couple key learnings as well as the summer read for our staff at Eagle Ridge!

  • Beware of placing limitations - frames are good, but can be limiting if for the wrong canvas.  At the heart of this is the idea of  innate ability versus learning capacity and is directly addressed in the parable of the talents.  Servants are entrusted with talents.  Two go and grow their talents into something  more and are rewarded for it.  One does not and is not.  Fourteen years of serving in various capacities on IEP committees has taught me that we certainly all have our strengths and weaknesses, but all have the capacity to learn and grow. I recently had a discouraging conversation with an individual in leadership where he shared with me a belief that he did not believe in plans for growth.  The way he talked sounded scarily like the companies referred in Gladwell's article The Talent Myth, "rank & yank" I believe it was called.  He truly believed that you either got or your out.  That is just not the way I operate or choose to view the world, and yes, it is a choice.  I want my people to grow.  Ideally on their own, but I am an educator so I can help with that!  The bottom line is that we are meant to learn and develop and remain fully committed to this myself and having this as an imperative for my staff.  Our families deserve this: a leadership who is seeking, learning and growing and, in turn, passing that value along to students.  
  • Adjust language - for whatever reason, as I was reading about this portion of Dweck's study
    about praising intelligence versus effort this picture kept popping in my head:  Effort + persistence = greater long term opportunities for success.  In the light of this thought how we praise kids becomes enormous.  I have always been a huge believer in language we use with kids,  In the context of instructions and discipline, there is a wide gap in meaning between "you need to... vs. I need you to...".  Referring to kids as "authors", "scientists", "researchers", etc., I believe, has a huge impact on student's attitudes towards themselves and the work.  Add to that, I believe that we design experiences more carefully we want student to believe    Not to far from where I am, there is a district that only refers to students as "learners" because of root of the word students and learner better fits the context their goals with students.  It's pretty powerful!   New learning often requires new language (see Pluto).   I'll admit I've praised kids, not solely of course, for their intelligence because I wanted them to feel that way, but this is an adjustment that I'll be making as I work with staff and students.  Also an area that I want to know more about!
  • Listen to understand - I feel like this is the piece that allows us to apply a growth mindset in the context of relationships and connections.  Now more than ever it seems that our world is so polarized, the need for the growth mindset is almost an imperative. The media bombards us with the things that divide. Our kids (and us, too!) need need the ability to wade through the nonsense to be able to see different points of view.  Not necessarily to change minds, but to understand better, to empathize...add to the pool of shared meaning, not completely obliterate with our own rigidity.  Tall order, but vital if we have any desire to have an open and meaningful conversation for purposes of growth.
Is the growth mindset a sliding spectrum?  I hope so.  If there is such a thing as growth mindset, a spectrum is almost implied.  I don't want to stay in the same place in my growth and learning that am today nor can we as a society.  I want this for my staff, I want this for our students, I want this for our community!  Fostering and growing this begins with the opportunities and experiences that we provide our students daily.

Do you see the fostering of a growth mindset as an imperative?  Why?

Happy New Year and happy growing!


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