The only thing more intimidating than coming up with an idea for your last blog post of the year is coming up with a topic for your first post of the year.
I looked up my first post of 2014. It was about changing mindsets from Fixed to Growth, based on the research of Carol Dweck. I am happy to say that I worked hard during the year to live up to the goal of establishing a classroom with a Growth Mindset. In fact, I might have worked too hard on it.
“What are you doing?” I asked some students one day. They were playing a logic game that has challenge cards that are sequenced from easiest to hardest. The game had started 5 minutes earlier, and the next time I passed their group I saw they were already on the last (most difficult) card. “You just started this. You can’t already be on the last card.”
“But the first one was too easy – and you’re always telling us we should look for challenges for our brain. When we say something is hard, you say, ‘Good!’ ”
I stopped, speechless.
“Uh, yes, but…”
See, the problem is that I see students do this all of the time. All too often they jump from the easiest card to the most complex. Then they get frustrated by the incredibly difficult last challenge and give up on the game completely – not realizing that if they had gone through the carefully scaffolded puzzles in between they would have learned some of the skills needed for the last challenge.
But how could I explain that without recanting all of my speeches about a “Growth Mindset” and refusing to stay in your comfort zone where everything is easy?
I didn’t. I walked away, but listened carefully to the conversation that went from determination to slow surrender and frustration.
“We can’t do this. Let’s just look at the answer,” someone finally said.
“Yes, you can,” I said. “But not yet. Start from the beginning and you will find out what you need to do to solve that last card.”
You can’t just jump to the top of a mountain from the base. It might be easy to hike through those foothills, but it’s not a waste of time, and it’s necessary to get some experience before you try to reach the peak.
It’s not failure to slow down and put in some practice. In fact, I think most “experts” would agree that it’s critical to success.
So, in this new year, my goal is to help my students understand that “starting with easy” is okay – just as long as you keep improving.
I also have more resources on Growth Mindset on this Pinterest Board.