Growth Mindset – Dweck is my Current Hero

I remember Mrs. Hanlon.  Mrs. Hanlon was my Grade 2 teacher and she had very curly brown hair and she smoked.  (Gimme a break! That’s the description my Grade 2 brain has retained ok?!)

Mrs. Hanlon also loved to teach multiplication tables through repetition and competition.  This was not great for an introverted kid with a tendency towards worry. When Mrs. Hanlon used to line us up in two rows and make us answer multiplication questions at speed, my stomach would drop to my grey woolen socks and I would want to hurl up my cornflakes.

I now understand what she was trying to do.  It makes sense from the perspective that repetition would develop the neural circuitry I needed.  Therefore yes, her intentions were good…. but my ability to receive those intentions was clouded by a belief system that I was not fast enough, not as good as the other girls, and as such, I would always lose.  I was a failure.

This is actually a tragic self-concept for a 7-year-old to hold, and I now have some reasonably clear understandings as to where this came from.  (I won’t bore you with that!). What I will refer you to read is Dr. Carol S. Dweck’s book “Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfill your potential.”

Synopsis of said awesome read:

A fixed mindset is a rigidly held belief system that we are genetically predisposed to be “good” at things and that if we have to try to be good, then we aren’t really that good.  This translates practically to a fear of failing, as failure confirms that we are not good enough. It is also defined by the idea that things can’t change.

A growth mindset is a belief system that we have the ability to learn from experience and practice.  We do not have to be great at something for the first time we try. In fact, the belief is that the more we try, the more likely we are to improve and develop.  It is defined by the idea that failure is just one step in a lifetime experiment which leads us to better things.

There is a lot more to this, of course, the book is 264 pages of tiny font!

At this moment, Dweck is my hero because she underscores very clearly the reason why I do my job.  That all human beings have value and potential. That with effort comes learning. That we can be the masters of our destiny if we just believe that we have a capacity for growth.