I teach my students a lot of different things.
I teach them how to pick apart words to discover their meanings. I teach them to look beyond the surface of a text, to ask questions, and to glean meaning from words that have never held their interest. I teach them to read with expression so that words never become the stumbling block that keeps them from comprehension.
The most important thing I teach my students — my students who struggle daily with learning disabilities — is to take risks.
When they walk into my classroom, bright-eyed on their very first day of high school, I tell them that it’s okay to fail within the four walls of my classroom. Failing means that they’ve made an attempt and I am never going to fault them for trying. When my students — who so often are discouraged in their general education classes — feel empowered to take risks, I get to witness some of their greatest successes. I get to celebrate what they’ve achieved with them.
It’s a very humbling experience.
When I reflect on their triumphs — from something as simple as using a difficult vocabulary word correctly in front of their English teacher to bringing up a failing grade on an essay to a B – I realize that my students teach me something in return.
They teach me something I tell them from the very start: it’s okay to take risks. Failing means you’ve tried. It makes the success you create that much sweeter.
As our new school year begins, I’m taking a page out of their book. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. I hope you’ll do the same.
What is a growth mindset?
In education, we refer to mindsets as how a person views themselves. With regards to students, this can show up as a student who believes they’re smart or a student who believes they aren’t smart. How you view yourself, either consciously or subconsciously, informs not only how you learn, but how you make personal connections with other people and how you succeed in life.
Your self-perception affects all areas of your life.
Caroline Dweck, the psychologist who developed the concept of a growth mindset, stipulates that there are two types of mindsets — fixed and growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that the traits that they have are fixed and can’t be changed. If they succeed in school, this is because they are “smart,” not because they put in effort. When they run into a task they can’t complete, the basic thought process is that they failed because they aren’t as smart as they think.
Can you see the issue with that?
With a growth mindset, people believe that their basic traits — intelligence, talent, etc. — are developed through hard work and determination. Students who have a growth mindset know that with practice, they can improve any skill. Instead of believing that they can’t do something, they remove the word “can’t” from their vocabulary.
“I may not be able to do this now, but with practice and hard work, I will be able to do it.”
That’s what I’m proposing. Let’s get rid of the word “can’t” and focus on what we will be able to do. Let’s develop a growth mindset.
At the beginning of the summer, I had a whole list of goals that I wanted to implement in my life. Frankly, it was too much. So I’ve narrowed down the list and have come up with a few broad category goals that I want to achieve this year.
This year, I will…
… walk at least three miles every day as exercise. This may be walking my dog, but it will be treated as exercise that I do on top of the “incidental” walking I do every day. This is intentional walking.
… drink 70 ounces of water each day. Hydration is important! I feel a lot better when I am hydrated.
… eat out twice a month! One of these will be a fancy dinner date — more on that in a later post.
… build up my savings. My savings has really taken a hit this summer between the process of buying a house and actually moving. I want to give myself a nice cushion.
… stick to my meal plan! I’ve got the rest of the year planned out in terms of what I will be eating. I will stick to the meal plan in order to save money and eat healthy foods.
What are your goals? Share them in the comments below!