January 6, 2017
I hope you had a peaceful December holiday and that the new year finds you well!
Many of us begin each new year with a list of resolutions — ambitious changes we expect to make overnight. But in reality, learning — whether it’s a new behavior or a new academic subject — is a process that takes time and persistent effort. Thus our expectation of immediate results sometimes sets us up for disappointment and the kind of self-talk that sabotages longer-term success.
Fortunately, our children know better.
Here in the Sunnyvale School District, we are helping students to establish a growth mindset — the belief that they can succeed, even increase their intelligence and expand their talents, through hard work and perseverance.
Students with a fixed mindset believe their potential is finite — they are smart or they are not. Those with a growth mindset understand that learning takes persistent effort and setbacks are a natural part of growth. They try, fail, try a different approach, and never doubt their potential for success. The contrast is clear in the way students talk about learning: “I can’t read chapter books” versus “I can’t read chapter books, yet.”
Research has yielded two additional points that profoundly influence our teaching: the growth mindset works — students with a growth mindset actually do reach higher levels of achievement — and the growth mindset can be learned.
This is exciting for us as educators in that it unlocks our ability to motivate children and set them on the path to a lifelong love of learning! We, therefore, teach growth mindset right alongside our other critical subjects; we believe it will leverage student success across all curricular areas.
As parents, you can encourage a growth mindset at home, praising children for hard work and continued efforts, and encouraging them to experiment with new approaches to mastering a task. As adults who influence children, we can all model the growth mindset as well, minimizing our own self-defeating thoughts and statements, and acknowledging setbacks as opportunities to try new strategies. The children around us will benefit from our example. And we may just realize those new year’s resolutions after all.
I wish you good health, peace, and growth in 2017!
Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Sunnyvale School District