Growth Mindset

“A river cuts through rock, not because of it’s power, but it’s persistence” – Jim Watkins.


How important is a growth mindset? Do you believe in the power of that mindset?

Often we have students who really challenge us. They may have gaps in learning, retention issues, behavior issues, lack of experiences to build upon. We have to ask ourselves a fundamental question: “Do I believe achievement ability is fixed”? Until you answer this for yourself, you’re just treading water. Counting off days and averaging scores until the year ends and your work with them is finished.

If you believe that with effort, opportunity, motivation and instruction, ability can be influenced, how are you conveying that to your students? Do they have a growth mindset?

I believe as educators, developing this in our students is our first job. It matters not how much you subscribe to the philosophy. What matters is how much they do. What steps do you take to create, support, and build this?

I put a lot of emphasis on effort. I recognize and reward even tiny steps forward. I announce to my students -daily- that today will be a great day for their mind (they love that). I don’t always just accept what they produce. I ask for more. I tell them, “I will help you, I’ll walk down this long bumpy road with you, but I won’t stand idly by with you. You’re going to have to walk along side me”. I give them choices but having a fixed mindset isn’t one of them. My room is sometimes loud. We have been known to stop and play Celebration by Kool & The Gang for a random kid accomplishing a random feat. I tweet quality work, and each student knows what quality means for them. They also have goals in place so what was quality today will look different next time. It must. Because we have a growth mindset. We expect to succeed. The journey is what looks different for each kid. Not the destination. The destination is achievement. For all.

I actually said out loud today, during a benchmark, “What matters today isn’t your score. What matters is your thinking and how you describe it to me on that test”. I actually stopped and thought to myself, did I just say that a benchmark score doesn’t matter? Even more amazing, not a single kid looked at me funny or responded at all. They know that what I value is their thinking and their growth.

For those who are now nervous about “scores” and tests…. I’m pleased to report that despite my declaration that a score was meaningless, every student in my class improved from their last assessment. One student who scored a 25 on his previous STAAR test earned a 50% today. It’s only December and he has doubled his score.

I don’t always accomplish all the things on my plate on any given day. I’m not always on track with where the papers say I should be. But I never skimp on this. It happens daily, no matter what. It’s a decision I must make every day and what I don’t get done, it will be there tomorrow. It’s just how I’ve evolved. It’s the only way I know how to teach. We protect some things at the expense of others. We protect what we value. What do you protect?

I am convinced this is perhaps the most important influence you can ever have on a life. I challenge you to start building that growth mindset today. Turn your attention to that one most important job of all. Watch the vision develop into a reality.

Our students need it. For many, their success will depend on it. For some, the only way they will receive it is through you.

Now I think I’ll go tackle some emails and paperwork….


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