by a member of the TenMarks Team:
If you ever wonder what it feels like to be free, study a toddler. When the mood strikes to throw a tantrum, the toddler yelps and demands. When the mood strikes to run carelessly through a parking lot, the toddler jolts as her frantic parent leaps to catch up. My soon-to-be three-year-old daughter often twirls around and sings as she looks into the mirror. She winks at herself confidently and likes what she sees. I admire her fierceness and wild displays of emotion. I wonder if she will always have the courage to be this free once interpersonal situations and learning become more challenging. When things go our way, we do not need the resilience required when situations are challenging.
As I watch my child develop and grow, I can’t help but reflect on my own childhood development and growth including missed opportunities. For example, when I was eight years old, I aspired to be a great figure skater. When I began ice-skating lessons, I remember trying to master the figure eight. Unfortunately, my legs just wouldn’t move in the way my mind envisioned. When it came time to pass into the next level, I received some sad news. I didn’t make the cut and would need to repeat the current level. So, guess what I did? I quit. In my mind, I could only see the rhinestone-covered flawless figure skaters on television as they seemingly effortlessly triple jumped in the air. In my quest for perfection, I was not willing to tackle the challenges that come on the way to mastering a skill. I often look back and wish I had repeated the class because it was not about going to the next level; it was about having the courage to persist in the face of failure. I can, however, now utilize this humbling personal experience to guide my toddler’s growth mindset.
To encourage growth mindset as a parent, I find it helpful to look for inspiring and informative resources. The Growth Mindset Pocketbook by Barry Hymer and Mike Gershon offers practical strategies to nurture growth mindset in children. Although intended for teachers, the pocketbook can also be valuable for busy parents who are interested in integrating the growth mindset philosophy into their parenting.
Here are some of my favorite tips from the book:
- Make the value of failure known: First Attempt In L
- Log mistakes. Prompts to log can include: What was the mistake? Why was it useful? What did you learn from it?
- Connect effort and achievement with challenge. In other words…If I don’t sweat it, I won’t get it!
- Effort grades are powerful because they are more meaningful to students. For example, an A can be defined as revealed considerable scrutiny of writing; carefully proofread for errors.
- Have students provide peer assessments. Prompts include: Explain the evidence you can find that your partner has put effort into her work. How can your partner improve her thinking? What can your partner do to improve her work?
- Have students self-assess. Divide the self-assessments into "Criteria" and "Where’s the Evidence?" Sample criteria: The work was challenging and pushed my thinking. I thought about what I was doing and tried different approaches. I kept going when things were difficult. The work shows me putting a lot of effort into what I was doing. I can identify when I pushed myself and when I didn’t.
- Connect the obstacles to goals with possible solutions. To achieve this, use If…then
- Provide traffic lights. Each student gets three cards of paper, one red, one orange, and one green. Students use each card to indicate current understanding: red card on top means I do not understand; orange card on top means I understand some things, but not all; green card on top means I understand completely.
- Appoint growth mindset role models. For example, choose three students for three categories each: Effort, Not being afraid to make mistakes, and Self-regulation.
Whether it’s as a parent, teacher, employee, or student, we all face challenges. Developing and encouraging the mentality early on that failure is a part of life and that it is what you do when confronted with failure that matters can help children as they progress through even more demanding challenges in their lives. I cannot go back to my own experience failing for the first time, but I want to prepare my own daughter for setbacks and to teach her that strength of character comes from hard work, endurance, and an open mind.