Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fixed mindset vs. growth mindset

I teach gifted kids.  By gifted, I mean the educational definition.  I am aware that every child has gifts and every child has something special they bring to the table, but I am talking in particular about children with an IQ of 130 or above.  There are many myths about the gifted child, with one of the worst being "they'll be fine" without services in school.  It's a catch-22 for a gifted child, really.  On the one hand, they are never really challenged the way everyone else in their class is, so they learn to give 25%-50%.  (I came up with those figures because most gifted kids go into a classroom knowing 50% to 75% of the material to be presented already.)  Yet this is the same complaint teachers give when working with gifted children:  they're lazy and they give up easily.  This topic could really be its own blog, and there are many GT teachers across the nation taking up this cause.

However, I am in the classroom, with only gifted children.  I struggle with this aspect of gifted children quite a bit.  From the time they are small, things come easy to them, so they avoid things that are difficult.  Human nature on steroids.  By the time they get to me, many really don't like to be challenged, and will do as little as possible, all in the effort to avoid the uncomfortable.

I came across the notion of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset, and I have thought about these concepts as they relate to my GT kiddos.  I started realizing that these kids have a fixed mindset about learning ("I give up," or "This is hard," or "I just can't learn math.") and it was be in my best interest to try and change it.  It worked well last week.  Two students have a mind block about math, and any time they learn something new, I get arms crossed, with "I just don't get it" coming out of their mouths.  This week, when it happened, I looked at them and asked which mindset they were experiencing.  "Fixed" was the response.  I asked what they need to say to themselves to move it over to growth mindset.  They told me, then they worked through the problem to be the ONLY students to get the problem completely right.  That was proof enough for me.

I've applied these thoughts to my own life as well.  I'm recognizing some fixed mindsets I have about a difficult relationship that just won't go away.  On one hand, I have begun to only worry about the things that are in my control.  I can't help if they have fixed mindsets about me and my family.  There's nothing I can do to make them see that me or my husband have grown over the past thirty years. (It's a little frustrating to be locked into who you were 30-something years ago).  I can, instead, see how they have changed and possibly speak to them from that point of view if we ever come in contact again, even if they may not do the same.

I share with my students the fact that I apply these principles to my life as I learn them.  I want them to see adults as lifelong learners.  I want them to know that they aren't expected to have it all figured out and try to come off as experts.  It's OK to be in the learning curve.  In this way, I'm hoping to influence genuineness in children who won't be concerned with keeping up with appearances, but are instead growing into the people they are, with the strengths they possess, so that they aren't trying to "Keep Up" with anyone.  I learn along with them.  We're growing, together.