Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Growth Mindset

How do you react when a student says, "I can't do this. I'm just not good at math and I never will be.  It's just who I am."?

Hopefully, you have a talk with the student, calmly discussing with them that with focus and by doing the required work, they can learn the material.  We shouldn't believe that they can't learn the math, and we shouldn't let them buy into that lie, either.  If we don't believe that every kid can be successful in our class, we shouldn't be teaching, period. We expect kids to be able to achieve a certain level of competency in every subject, and we don't accept the excuse that they just aren't good at any specific subject.  Yes, they may be more comfortable with some subjects than others, but that doesn't matter. There is a level of success that we expect from every kid, regardless.

Now, how often do we allow ourselves to get away with telling ourselves we can only teach a certain way.  We balk at the idea of teaching any way other than that with which we are completely comfortable.  We convince ourselves that the only way we can possibly be effective in the classroom is to continue what we have been doing, regardless of current research that clearly says we should be doing things differently, hiding behind the idea that "I can't teach that way. I'm just not good at it and I never will be.  It's just who I am."

This is the mindset of many teachers I know. It was me just a few years ago.  There is a current push to instill a growth mindset in the kids and yet we have a fixed mindset when it comes to our abilities as teachers.  This needs to stop.  If the research says we need to teach in a way that encourages discussion, promotes creative problem solving, and requires real understanding, then we need to take on a growth mindset, calmly focus on the task at hand, and put in the work necessary to teach that way. If we don't believe we can do this, then we shouldn't be teaching, period.

It is time to stop making excuses and start growing as educators.  We need to stop limiting ourselves (and, in turn our students) and start becoming what the students need us to be.  And it's time for those of us who have already taken on the task to start promoting a growth mindset in our colleagues.  Anything less is a disservice to the profession and the students.

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