Throughout my education, I remember getting tests and papers back with a letter (or number) grade on them and that grade being pretty final. I don’t know that I was ever offered a chance to make a test or paper better until graduate school. In a class with a particularly challenging professor, I wrote a paper that I thought was ok. The professor handed it back with an F on it. I was devastated. I felt sure I was going to fail the class and I didn’t know what to do. Then I read the professor’s comments, which offered me a chance to learn more about the subject by rewriting the paper. Rewrite a paper? This was new to me and I told him so. Well, he said, that’s how you learn. Sure enough, the second time I wrote the paper, I learned much more about the subject and about myself. I grew and I’ll never forget that lesson.
I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to inspire growth both as an educator and a parent. I’m sure we all hear a lot of “I can’t do this” or “I’m just not good at that.” And there’s the opposite: “She’s so smart, she always gets the right answer.” The trouble with these, as well as with test grades, is that there’s no room for growth. You are what you are and your recent work reflects that. That’s not what I want at all, for me or for my kids.
So how to we turn that around? I think we can start with the words we use. I love this infographic by the talented @sylviaduckworth comparing phrases one might hear in a challenging situation. In fact, I love it so much I have it hanging on my wall. At first, using phrases on the left might seem forced, but if they can be internalized, a whole new mindset can be developed. In this new mindset, anything is possible. The best part is that the growth mindset is a lot more fun! Have you heard (or said!) any of the phrases on the right recently?