People with growth mindsets are people who are limitless—they can do anything they put their mind to, simply because they are willing to roll up their sleeves and complete the hard work of learning new skills, all while reflecting on progress made, and progress yet to come.
However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t struggle. Someone can be the very embodiment of a growth mindset, but still find themselves grappling with their inner self.
If you realize that you’re in this kind of a rut, don’t panic! You are not alone. One struggle doesn’t mean that you can’t develop a growth mindset. However, what you choose to do next will define which mindset becomes your character.
Who we become is what we take forever on
It’s easy for us to make the connection that a growth mindset is what we should strive to foster in our students in order for them to succeed, yet it is often overlooked that we should practice what we teach. It is critical that our teachers and leaders on campus adopt this strong habit of mind and allow it to frame our daily interactions with students and peers, lest we fall into the rut of believing that our mistakes are not our own, and that there are things we can simply be content to be untalented at.
1. Believe it, speak it, act like it.
Developing and maintaining a growth mindset begins with the belief that learning is a process of self-development. You need to believe in yourself and the inherent malleability of your own mind. You need to dedicate time to continuously reflect on your choices, actions, reactions, and other attributes to learning. Don’t give in to the thoughts that prevent you from seeing progress and growth.
Being aware of your words will drive the way you view those you impact. If you speak words of innovation, reflection, and growth, you’ll recognize that nobody is the product of their past and their future is yet to be determined. Better yet, if implemented consistently, they will believe it, too.
Our thoughts drive our words, and our words drive our actions. So, will you be an instrument of hope or a tool of destruction?
2. Be brave, try something new.
Technology has rapidly changed the way we learn. Information and resources are readily accessible and our students live and breathe by the screen. With that, campuses around the world are trying to establish classrooms that foster innovation, creativity, and problem-solving. Programs and initiatives, such as Project Lead the Way (PLTW), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and the research of John Hattie (Visible Learning), are successful at tugging at the curious minds of our students because they are all about creativity, trial and error, and they focus on allowing learners to engage in novel experiences meant to push them out of their comfort zones and into higher-yielding academic results.
3. Set high expectations, recognize effort.
Michelangelo is notorious for having said that, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and that we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.” This statement rings truest in the field of education. The highest disservice we could pay our students is to set the aim for their academic trajectories at a medium-level, and celebrate them when they ultimately create average end results. Rather, we should set our expectations for our students high and celebrate each and every labored step they make.
It is not nearly enough to show our students the mountain we’d like them to climb, though, and then reserve our celebration for the moment they hit the very top. If we think of our learning paths only in terms of our progress toward one final outcome, we’ll rarely feel the joy of accomplishment. We also need to recognize that there are different journeys that students will take to get to the top and that some students won’t climb all the way there.
We need to recognize the tremendous effort that our students are putting forth at each mile marker, with each piece of success criteria we offer them, as a valued and hard-earned part of their learning process.
4. Embrace failure, provide time for reflection.
By choosing to view learning as a journey, we inherently admit the idea that there are roadblocks along the way. The Learning Challenge, developed by James Nottingham, acknowledges these roadblocks, which he calls “the pit.” Through proper utilization of these roadblocks, we admit that we can get better at anything through time, practice, and increased utilization of strong feedback.
Without failure, there could not be success.
Success is the result of the thoughtful reflection that we complete after our first attempt. We must not be so afraid of our own vulnerability that we overlook the tremendous opportunity that failure brings. In examining the choices we made that caused us to fail, we gain a list of actionable steps for our successful second attempt.
In error we learn the greatest things about ourselves
We’re all born with certain skills, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve them. We each have a choice and an opportunity to empower ourselves to take back control of our profession and our destiny. When others see that someone believes in the limitless potential of others, it becomes infectious, causing them to be inspired to take on the same attitude and commitment.
If there is any piece of advice I can impart on you through a simple blog post, it is to always remember that this journey isn’t so much about becoming the version of yourself that someone else wants you to be, but about unbecoming everything that isn’t you, to reveal your true self, allowing you to be the person and educator that you were always meant to be.
View the mini-documentary about Ka’imiloa’s Visible Learning story: