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Growing a Growth Mindset

growing a growth mindset

In today’s high-stakes, all-or-nothing society, teachers across the nation see kids under the pressure of perfection from a very young age. Many children have expectations placed on them to be a straight-A student and an all-star athlete (even in little league)! They go to gymnastics, football, soccer, and ballet while being amazingly flawless sons or daughters that have great manners and always keep their bedrooms clean. But what happens when things don’t go quite right? What if they fail? Will a fixed mindset keep them stuck in a cascading feeling of failure, or will they use a growth mindset to rebound demonstrating perseverance?

Make No Mistake

Don’t get me wrong. Kids should be accountable and parents should have high expectations. However, sometimes these are just so unrealistic. And, with a new year comes new goals and even busier schedules in pursuit of perfection. The saying “make no mistake” takes on a whole other meaning when kids are facing so much pressure. So many children can relate to Luisa!

Even if children don’t have astronomically high expectations placed on them by loved ones, some kids are just hard on themselves. Staying positive when you fail at something is hard… Like, really hard. Because of this, students often have a negative rection when they make a mistake. When one little part goes wrong, they shut-down and completely stop believing in themselves. Their day is ruined to the point of no return. 

We all have at least one kid sitting in our classrooms right now that just can’t move on. Unfortunately, they have a fixed mindset. By and large, they come to believe that they are not good enough and never will be. For this reason, it is essential that students learn about a growth mindset if they are going to grow into productive citizens.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Without a doubt, they must learn that no one is perfect. That is to say, everyone makes mistakes because we are all constantly learning. We want kids to see themselves as life-long learners. However, they also need to realize that everyone will not reach the finish line at the same time. Indeed, everyone learns and develops skills at different rates. Through hard work, time, effort, positivity, and your guidance, your kids can and will develop a growth mindset.

Developing a Growth Mindset

It would indeed be nice to tell students that they have to have a growth mindset and it just happen. If they just believed in themselves the way that we do, everything would be just peachy keen. However, this is not even slightly realistic. In reality, kids are just so hard on themselves. I can’t even begin to count the number of tears shed by students because an eraser ripped a hole in a paper during a phonics or math lesson. They unfortunately just can’t see a way out of problems on their own. As such, a growth mindset needs to be intentionally cultivated and  deeply embedded into the classroom routine. Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite ways to do just that!

1. Flip the Perspective

Oftentimes, students will not come into the classroom with a positive perspective. They will think that if they are not good at something, they never will be. Take the case of parents saying something along the lines of “I’m not a math person” or “I never did like reading.” This is obviously fixed mindset that likely stemmed from setbacks when they themselves were in school. 

In any event, our students have to learn how to adjust this type of thought process into something more positive. Students need to learn that talent and intelligence are developed over time. Because of this, it is vital to never give up when things goes wrong. By all means, teach them to persevere!

2. The Growth Mindset Series

In order to help make this mindset shift, we know that students need direct and explicit instruction. To help you with this, Class Dojo offers a FREE video series specifically for Growth Mindset! One of several sets in the Big Ideas section of Class Dojo, this series of videos are nothing short of A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It does a particularly great job in putting the abstract concept of growth mindset into a student-friendly and totally relatable context. 

Mojo and Clara Help Kids Grow

These characters play out a scene where math gets hard for Mojo. He’s very discouraged because before now, math had always come easily. He feels so defeated that he wants to quit school. That’s when his friend Clara comes in clutch and teaches him all about growth mindset!

Activate a Growth Mindset

As a matter of fact, there is a video that demonstrates exactly how magical mistakes are. Additionally, there’s a video that teaches how the brain is like a muscle and how strengthens over time, but only when you use it. In my opinion, everyone who works with children in any capacity should check out the full Class Dojo Growth Mindset series. Bonus — it’s FREE! 

Without fail, I show them every single year the first week of school as activators. Now that my school has incorporated Morning Meetings, it makes it even easier to open the floor for discussion. Using these as instructional tools has truly helped my students to believe in themselves and not give up when things get tough. 

As it stands, each episodes takes between 5-7 minutes to watch and discuss. In fact, Class Dojo even offers Take-Home questions for parents! You can post the video to your class story so that parents can see exactly what their child saw. Of course, this helps bridge the school-home connection by providing parents with resources to support their child’s social-emotional learning.

3. Positive Posters for Growth Minsdet

Most people would agree that it’s nice to have an appealing workspace. Not too cluttered, but not barren either. Given that classroom space is limited, you want to make use of the real-estate your classroom walls provide. Accordingly, whatever you put up there has to be important enough to be used frequently as points of reference for you and your students. Therefore, it is a must to give them quality content to absorb. Because you need to ingrain this way of thinking, you can and should present growth mindset using anchor charts and posters. 

By doing this, students will be able to read and absorb positive thoughts whenever they are scanning the room. When I first began intentionally cultivating a growth mindset in my kiddos, I came across a quote that stated: Mistakes are EXPECTED, RESPECTED, INSPECTED, and CORRECTED. That message certainly rang true in my heart! I worked to make it a deep-seated truth in my classroom. Subsequently, I created my own version of the anonymous message and displayed it prominently on our classroom wall. We refer to it every. single. day. 

Whenever students are upset or angry about a mistake, I remind them that everyone makes them! It is an inevitable part of life. Undoubtedly, the most important part of the mistake is that we examine it together and then work to correct it. It must be remembered that there are many famous failures. That is, many of the wonderful things we have today came from people who repeatedly failed with inventions, contraptions, machines, and theories. In essence, these famous folks didn’t fear failure. In truth, they valued the process that helped them make their resources and ideas even better. 

4. See It, Know It, Be It

Of course, it’s a conversation that you’ll have daily. It’s definitely not a once-and-done kind of thing. In the same way, this is not something that you can just espouse to a kid and then not hold true to it. You, in fact, have to make them understand that you believe in the magic of mistakes and the power of yet. I’d say the best way to do that is through your daily interactions.

But, What Does That Really Mean?

In particular, you shouldn’t fuss, act frustrated, or otherwise show negative emotions when a student gets something wrong or messes something up. Regardless of the situation, think back to why you chose a career in education. What is your role as their teacher? Is it to help them see their error as an opportunity to learn and grow, or is it to beat them over the head with what they’ve done wrong? 

Of course, our role as educators is to walk our students through their errors and help them understand and make corrections. They will unquestionably be better prepared for that situation or scenario in the future. As it happens, using and referencing the Growth Mindset poster will help your students see you as that supportive adult they need. Not only is it a great tool for teachers and students, but you can also snag a FREE copy below!

5. Celebrate Mistakes to Focus on Growth Mindset

So you’re probably thinking, “Okay, Okay. Got it. Mistakes are actually good. I understand that students have to learn it is okay to make mistakes! No, how exactly do you do that again?”

As I touched on a minute ago, students need to see this belief in action. For instance, every teacher makes mistakes! Instead of trying to cover my own mistakes up or come up with an excuse, I take ownership. When students find a mistake I made (and point it out respectfully), I reward them with Class Dojo points. I undoubtedly refer back to the Growth Mindset Poster on the classroom wall and let my students see me as a humble learner. By celebrating mistakes, we create an opportunity for everyone to learn, whether they were directly involved in the situation or not!

6. Everyone Loves a Gift

Another fun way to help students realize that mistakes are part of the learning process is with a fun and inexpensive gift. For example, I found these cute (and practical!) erasers at Wal-Mart a couple of years ago. With the purpose of building growth mindset in mind, I stocked up. Furthermore, I coupled them with a student gift tag printed on cardstock, and viola! #BestGiftEver Go ahead and grab your copy of the free printable gift tag.

Without a doubt, developing a growth mindset is so important for students. Students need to know that everyone will make mistakes because no one is perfect. Equally important, they need to learn how to react when mistakes occur. Furthermore, they need to understand that all growth and improvement takes time and practice. Therefore, developing an open mindset is essential. When students are able to overcome at aside the fixed mindset, they will become the best version of themselves. 

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