Think about riding a bike for the first time. All those skinned knees, balance issues, and the general frustration of knowing you are not there yet. And then, there comes the day when you take off, riding smooth, feeling free and enjoying mastery. All new things, like riding a bike, tend to start off hard before they get easier.
That is one basic tenet of the Growth Mindset.
In a quick nutshell, the Growth Mindset offers a perspective that hard work, self belief, and perseverance are the critical components to success. Rather than seeing a mindset as fixed, unable to grow and evolve, it views the brain a muscle that can strengthen. The Growth Mindset stands in contrast to the Fixed Mindset, which opposingly sees our qualities as set and unable to develop; success is driven by talent, not hard work.
My kids are actively learning about the Growth Mindset within their elementary school classes. I was absolutely delighted to know this was going to be part of their education and educational journey — we really are blessed with an amazing school experience for both kiddos.
It would be easy to assume that the Growth Mindset is only for those actually engaged in a formal education; kids in elementary school, those studying in college, folks back in school for an advanced degree. That would be an incorrect assumption. The Growth Mindset is for all of us.
Have you ever had to adjust to a global pandemic before? Have you ever had to teach your children while working from home? Have you ever had to base your career on phone calls and video-conferencing rather than in-person meetings? Have you ever been asked, and told, that you have to avoid contact with those you love — even though they live right down the road? Me neither. This is a major first.
It sounds like we are learning and growing through this together. All of us.
Rather than seeing ourselves as ill-equipped, lacking and inadequate we must view ourselves through the Growth Mindset filter that encourages resiliency, an overcomer attitude, and the belief that you can do hard things. And friends, this is hard!
One of my hardest adjustments to this new way of living is trying to teach my stubborn, sassy and headstrong 8-year-old. (No idea where she gets it from…)
She gets so frustrated when I try to help her with her work. Then, she gets frustrated when she can’t figure it out on her own. It is the absolute worst when I review her work and find a mistake. There have been days, when this sweet child of mine uses every bit of patience I have within 20 minutes in our classroom. At school, her teacher doesn’t get this same attitude, I’ve asked more than once! Somedays, I’m tempted to make internal assessments about my inability to teach her and what it says about me. I have a tendency to determine it must reflect a shortcoming I must have as a mother. Those unfair attitudes and unkind assessments of myself would be reflective of a Fixed Mindset. In those moments when I find myself slipping into defeated places, I reach into the Growth Mindset for a critical reminder that I can do hard things.
Teaching Harper is hard. My role for eight years has been as her mother, hugger, nurturer, mentor, tickler, co-dreamer, disciplinarian, meal-fixer, listener and also her biggest fan (tied with my husband of course). At no point in her eight years have I amassed experience as her primary educator. Sure, we’ve had regular teaching moments and I’ve worked to help her grow intellectually and academically but I have never shouldered that responsibility. And then, one day, with no real notice, I took that role on.
Of course I’m not great at it — it is new. Remember riding a bike for the first time? It started hard before it got easier. Perhaps being Harper’s teacher will never be truly easy but I do believe that by the end of this at-home school year it will be easier. I believe that each day we enter the classroom I can learn something that will make me more effective the next day — I will grow through this!
I believe that the Growth Mindset works for me and it will work for you too.
Your hard things and my “hard things” will not be equivalent. My sister is a physician in Alaska and also pregnant. Her hard things relate to staying physically well, caring for her toddler, maintaining a healthy pregnancy and bravely serving as a physician during a global pandemic. Shew, it is a lot! Others are finding difficulties in the day-to-day. It can be hard to wake up with nowhere to go, no one to see and no clearly defined to-do list. That will require the Growth Mindset too. I do have a suspicion there are other mommas struggling to take on the role of teacher, too. I’ve seen enough memes floating around to validate this assumption. Give grace to yourself, persevere through, and believe that you can push through the difficulties towards a sense of mastery little-by-little.
Grow through this season. Choose a Growth Mindset that will make it possible!