Thursday, September 16, 2010

It’s All About Mindset!

Preaching accountability and self-reliance is fine but to me it also seems like kind of a duh! Those values are esteemed among people from all political persuasions.

The real issue is whether these values are inherent or self-induced as one extreme believes or the luck of the draw as another extreme believes. Let me explain why I believe they are both correct. We all, in fact, have the potential but some us fall victim to circumstance.

One pivotal circumstance is how both our parents and teachers taught each of us to process failure.

When it comes to unwrapping issues around student/family achievement and teacher/school performance, I've been an ardent reader since the late 1990s of Dr. Carol Dweck from back in her days at Columbia and a little book called Self Theories: their role In motivation, personality and development. It is a very insightful read but a little research heavy.Capture

She’s now at Stanford and her new book, Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, pulls together her work and the work of others into the role of "mindset" and it is an engrossing read even if you’re not information or research-driven and especially if you think you’re all about accountability and self-reliance.

As you can see from the links, Dweck isn’t all about selling books. For people who don’t read or want cliffs notes style,so to speak, she’s put plenty of information in bite-size, problem-solving chunks on her website.

There are essentially two mindsets. One worried about looking smart or feeling dumb and the other charging right through those issues and failure in general as learning and growing opportunities. It is possible of course for an individual to have both mindsets. I have the former when it comes to participating in "skits" and talent shows but my primary mindset, particularly in school, work and retirement is the latter.

I firmly agree with Dweck that you can change a person's mindset from one to the other.

I believe that core to what makes teachers both good and great teachers is a firm belief that every student has what it takes to academically succeed. If they don't and instead have the mindset that kids are either smart or they aren't, they and any administrators with that mindset need to be taken off-line immediately, given the opportunity to shift gears or move on.

Maybe, communities, not just schools and teachers, need to take on the challenge of shifting parental mindsets.

Unfortunately, as I blogged earlier in the month, it has been proven time after time, that school systems play what Chatanooga’s Benwood Foundation terms “dancing the lemons around” which ultimately means the “forgotten” schools serving the poorest and most disadvantaged students get poor teachers with “fixed mindsets.”

One last thought for you “eye-rollers.” Dweck notes that the then-Parisian who first developed the IQ test, did it not to quantify fixed intellectual ability but to improve the performance of all students in that city’s educational system.

Alfed Binet understood it was and still is all about mindset.

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