As a teacher before having my own children, I knew that I could influence a child’s intellectual abilities.
As well as being in the position of teaching some of the most gifted at learning at secondary school, I usually would seek out and take those classes that were filled with children that were deemed ‘academic failures’, not that a school would label them as such, but everyone just knew….. especially the children. It was usual and still is in many school environments to think of intellectual ability as a ‘fixed’ trait with which you receive at birth. This take on ability can have damaging consequences. It’s a sure fire approach to snuff out any persons ultimate potential and contribution to the world.
Alas in my work these days with teachers I get to visit some class rooms where the ‘fixed mindset’ reigns supreme. I get to hear judgement calls made about children who have got it wrong, can’t do the work, not capable of learning! Let’s just consider that last statement for a moment. How much possible learning and stretching of the mind would a child in a class such as this be missing out on? Every one is capable of learning. The teachers are well meaning however do not realise the power that their words and understandings around intelligence, talents and skills can have on stunting potential. Sometimes the ‘fixed mindset’ is not so obvious. Educators can lower their standards in the classroom by providing learning that is too easy so that children can feel successful and have a self esteem boost and hope to raise their achievements. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. For learning to occur there needs to be a degree of challenge.
“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.” -Josh Waitzkin.
No one is chained and bound to their current abilities. This is really important for adults to know and share with children. This is what you would describe as a ‘growth mindset’ where talents and abilities can be developed with practice, effort and persistence.
If you have a child that is currently not in a class environment where the growth mindest is yet to develop ( speaking from experience) this is a great place to start and you may want to share…… These are taken from Mindset by Dr Carol S. Dweck.
1. Have daily learning discussions. At dinner, in the car or at bedtime take time to ask your children the following. Modelling children what we learned too is great too.
“What did you learn to day?”
“What mistake did you make that taught you something?
“What did you try hard at today?”
2. Give feedback on process only and not the outcome.
Don’t praise personal abilities like being smart and pretty.