As a child, I was very smart but very insecure about my intelligence. I was afraid to fail and “disappoint” my teachers–even though they would not have been disappointed in the least. I am grateful that my mother, also an educator, recognized this fear in me fairly early on and helped me learn to work through this fear towards a growth mindset. She always challenged me to be my best and to continue to persevere through the difficult things in order to grow. This has greatly shaped the way I approach my life today and, having known the fear of failure, is also why I believe growth mindset is such an important thing to work on in the classroom.
My belief as an educator is to create environments where students feel safe to make mistakes. That is half of the challenge. The other half comes from working with the students to help them understand that it is okay to make mistakes or have failures. It’s what you do with those failures that is important. When students enter my classroom with a fixed mindset it is my goal and, I believe, part of my job to help them change that voice in their head to one that readily accepts a challenge head-on.
When a student says “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know how” I need to figure out how to change that conversation to one of a more positive outlook. Why do you think you can’t do it? Remember when we learned Punnett Squares? You thought you’d never get those either but through practice and perseverance, you aced that test! You CAN do this. By being intentional with students and their fixed mindset, I can help them change that voice.
As the facilitator in the classroom, it is important that I give constant feedback to my students to keep them moving forward. However, I must be very conscientious of my feedback and make sure that it helps encourage a growth mindset by pointing out the successes that have been made thus far. It is also important to give students opportunities to self-reflect on their learning. The combination of feedback and reflection can be powerful.
Through everything I still believe that it’s the environment that I create for my students that will help them be successful in transforming a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I must create scenarios that challenge students yet are attainable and allow them to explore with room for failure and mistakes. I have to give constant feedback to help guide them. Most importantly, I must cultivate a trust with that student so that he feels safe to try and safe to fail. When you stop making failure a “bad thing” and rather an opportunity for growth, students will thrive.