October 15, 2016

Mindset Work

I can pin-point the first time I heard the concept of a "fixed-mindset" -- I was in a psychology class in college and I remember thinking, "Uh-oh, I'm pretty sure I'm guilty of that!" I knew I had felt the pressure to "prove myself" at activities I thought I was innately good at.  Worse, I knew there were activities that I'd dropped or dismissed out of hand because I did not think I could be successful at them. It was an eye-opening realization, and since then I've been fascinated by the idea of mindsets.

It turns out that just teaching people about mindsets, achievement, and abilities can change how they approach challenging situations -- see here.  

When I taught Pre-K and 1st grade, I demonstrated malleable intelligence with a stretchy rubber-band.  I made comparisons and connections between learning how to walk, how to do the monkey bars, and how to read.  It didn't take long for my little guys to understand that you can "grow your brain," and it was exciting to see them recognize their own accomplishments as they reached new reading levels and masted new skills.

As a fourth grade teacher now, I still teach about growth mindset and see my kids take the concept to heart. However, I'm more aware that their experiences have shaped their beliefs and confirmed the picture they have of themselves.  They have seen hard work pay off in some ways, but they often still struggle to believe that it can make a difference in every area of their life.  Even those who are excited to learn a new math strategy, may shut down during a writing conference.  Even those who play multiple sports or instruments, may shy away from reading books in new genres or by unfamiliar authors.  I now try to focus more on the benefits of experiencing challenge, trying new things, and expanding your horizons.

In many ways I have been successful at cultivating my own growth-mindset -- I've learned to cook, to teach older students, and to do math in new ways {all things I once thought were "just not for me} -- but I've still had a few activities that felt off limits. Of course, I could be okay having a fixed-mindset about just a few things... but I wouldn't want that for my students. In order to constantly combat a fixed-mindset, you have to be able to recognize when you are "stuck" and take specific action -- see here. So, while I don't consider myself a runner YET... this year I'm trying to work on own my growth mindset.

Started running just 5 miles in March... set a goal of 32 miles in July

Not fast, but 5+ miles in the books.