Revisiting Growth Mindset

Getting Better Together

I’ve always felt proud to say that I am a teacher. Teachers are some of the kindest, most generous people on the planet, and the teachers I work with are no exception.

Teachers in Oak Park, like teachers everywhere, love their students. They work hours on end after the school day is done, planning and preparing for the students they serve. They are more than teachers; they are home away from home, social worker, nurse, and friend. Needless to say, teachers leave an indelible mark on their students.

Earlier this year, I was able to sit down with a handful of my colleagues as part of my Getting Better Together work, which is focused on cultivating a growth mindset among my students. This impromptu “Professional Learning Network” session, which we recorded via a Google Hangout on Air, was amazing and very powerful for me as a teacher. Here’s a recording of the session:

Our experiences are varied and our community is as diverse as can be, but we share a common goal: helping our students to be successful.

We discussed what growth mindset means to each of us and why we felt it important to have discussions with our students about it. Each of us shared some things we were doing with our students, and our discussion reaffirmed what I already knew — I work with creative and dedicated professionals. I had many lovely takeaways from our discussion, but I’d like to highlight these in particular:

  • Eric Podlasek talks with his students about welcoming challenges, not being afraid to fail, setting specific, focused goals, and tracking progress to illustrate the benefit of effective effort. He also uses literature to showcase examples of growth mindset and he reminds me to give prompt and meaningful feedback.
  • Through Mary Nelson, I’m able to see how growth mindset translates for a special education classroom, and why it’s particularly important to persevere and put forth your “best effort.” She is deliberate in pointing out what best effort looks like when demonstrated by her students.
  • Jen Las creates an environment for her students where they feel safe taking risks. She explains that while we all have both fixed and growth mindsets, she cautions us to be aware of the language used with students, and she guides students through personal goal setting. One strategy she uses is sentence starters to coach students how to give each other feedback.
  • Sherita Lysles encourages students through empowerment and awareness of their own brain development. Students demonstrating desired behaviors are praised and act as role models. When students are working collaboratively, roles are rotated, creating opportunities for students to do different tasks, and she reminds students to focus on their assigned task.
  • Sarah Maldre discussed what effective effort looks like in different grades, and the importance of allowing students time to reflect on their work.

I made a personal goal to incorporate some of the ideas from our PLC into my professional practice. I’ve been incorporating the practice of setting goals with students, delivering prompt feedback so that students can make use of the information, and having students document their own progress by monitoring data.

Most of our group will be getting together again April 27th to share our reflections from the ideas we’ve tried as a result of our roundtable discussion. You can watch the conversation live and participate through the commenting feature. Join us!

And, if you’re seeking high-quality resources about growth mindset and what it looks like in the classroom, check out Praising the Process and Encouraging Students to Persist Through Challenges.

This work was made possible through support by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Marion is a kindergarten teacher in Oak Park, Illinois. She has been teaching since 1992, most of that time in kindergarten. Marion is a member of the Illinois Writing Project and the Collaboration for Early Childhood. She currently teaches full day kindergarten at Longfellow Elementary School. Connect with Marion on Twitter: @Mrs_Ivey_says.

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