Not Everyone Has a Growth Mindset – Yet!

It’s that time of the school year again – “hump” time (like Wednesday is most weeks). Many of us suffer from that rough patch where the fun exciting part of the new school year is very much over. The anticipated end of the year feels like it’s on another planet. And here we are – stuck right in the middle. In many parts of the country it’s hardly warm enough to play outside (like here in Wyoming). This is why it is so important to stay strong and get to that finish line with a positive attitude kids will carry with them through the rest of the year. You know what it is…

The Growth Mindset.

This “rut” time of year can weight hard on everyone. So a positive outlook to learn and grow from is key to a successful (and stress-free) finish. As a substitute teacher, I have the privilege of witnessing how different teachers teach. It has become brutally apparent to me that this is a challenging time for everyone at school. Most recently I was assisting in a classroom as the teacher taught. To my surprise and dismay, she took five desperately needed minutes away from the math lesson to let the class know that most of them failed the last test they took. She in detail, repeatedly, explained what it meant if you received a 9 or below, that it means you got an F and how most students received a below 9 score. She then passed back the papers. Then told the class how so many of them didn’t seem “there” or present during the test.

As I sat, listening in horror to her words, to this fourth grade class, I decided to do something positive. I ignored her. I went back to helping my student. He greatly appreciated it and begged me not to leave, but I had to get to my next group of students in another class.

Of course we know teachers are horrendously overworked and grossly underpaid and under appreciated, however I can’t help but be upset at this situation. Poor test scores – from 95% of the class – sounds more to me like a teaching issue than a comprehension issue. Combine that with the fact this teacher would rather berate her students than spend that time answering questions or correcting the tests together tells me there is not a growth mindset present.

What could she have done? How does a teacher turn poorly scoring fourth grade students that aren’t comprehending their math into successful kids ready to take-on fifth grade? By approaching EVERY topic as though it is merely a stepping stone to a better, fuller, understanding of the subject as a whole. A “wrong” answer is simply another way or opportunity to learn. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always learned best from my mistakes.

As the teacher passed back the tests, with the students already feeling downtrodden, I could almost feel the apathy build in the room. I could hear the aura of “why bother, I’ve already failed” grow and spread through the room like some infectious disease. It was painful to sit through silently.

Keeping my growth mindset in mind, I vow that when I have my own classroom I will NOT allow a feeling like what I’d just felt to exist in MY room.

Instead, I would have handed back the tests and made one visible on the projector for everyone to see. We would have looked at the most commonly missed questions and reworked them so the following lessons would be built on at least a little more clarity. Every moment can, and should, be a teaching moment. Not for berating. Not for finger-pointing. And certainly not for repeating unnecessary negativity.

It is certainly understandable that it’s rough this time of year, but regardless, a growth mindset is vital to the success of a classroom environment and the overall mental and emotional health of the students. Teachers, and administrators, need to attend workshops, seminars, conventions – whatever they need to – for the betterment of their class and the school as a whole. The growth mindset has proven to lower bullying, increase academic success, and create a positive impact on the school and neighborhood, not to mention the wonderful qualities it instills on the students personally.

Here are a few fantastic websites to help you foster the growth mindset in your classroom –
Schoolhouse Diva
Melissa Taylor @ImaginationSoup