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As highlighted by this artwork by W.E. Hill, perception powerfully influences what we see. Looking at this picture some will see a young woman staring off in the distance, others an elderly woman sadly looking downward. Similarly, as educators, parents, or professionals, our perceptions can cause us to look at the same child and reach different conclusions depending on the mindset from which we are operating. Mindset research aims to help people shift their perceptions about the causes of success or failure.
Many teachers are embracing growth mindset and in so doing have shifted the way they teach and invite students to learn. Educators, who have adopted a growth mindset approach, explicitly teach their students that intelligence grows by exerting effort, that this growth occurs most when facing challenges, and that likely – in fact, undoubtedly – students will make mistakes as they learn. So when students make mistakes while facing a learning challenge, the teacher guides them to use their effort and fix their mistakes.
"One thing you need to know is that they are really chatty," said the teacher's email. I'd been invited to do a demonstration lesson in a 5th grade class. Previously, I had asked the teacher about the logistics of her classroom (SMART board? yes. Popsicle sticks? yes. Rows or paired seating? chatty.).
"OK," I thought, "I guess I need to teach them my strategies." I went through my mental rolodex of classroom management acronyms, picked one and made a poster.
Mindset in Action: Jennifer Maichin, from Mineola Middle School, NY, shares her experience, tips and classroom activities to introduce students to the growth mindset
I always wanted to teach. I dreamed of inspiring and empowering every student who entered my classroom. I imagined all students walking into school highly motivated and eager to learn. Reality of course was different. Mindset not only helped me get the class I always wanted, but also reminded me why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place.
For the past 16 years, I have had the privilege of spending my school days teaching 11 through 14 year olds with learning challenges. These students are interesting and unique and, yes, they are challenging to teach. People sometimes ask me: “How do you do it? Do you feel successful? Do you feel like you actually get through to them? What motivates them? What is the best way to engage them and get them to want to learn? Why bother? They don't listen anyway...”
How, then, do I get through to them?