Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever faltered with a task that you simply gave up on? Let’s face it: life throws us challenges, and some are more likely to give up on those challenges than to embrace them, struggle through them, and ultimately learn and grow from the experience as a whole. Today, many students are in the same shoes as a large percentage of adults - unwilling to take on new learning, new adventures, new challenges. To help cultivate a willingness to grapple with difficult problems and to persevere both inside and outside of the classroom, many are turning toward the ideals of a Growth Mindset. Through cultivating a culture of growth, students’ minds evolve to having a willingness to try, to stick with a tough challenge, and make the most of each and every bump in the road they face.
Cuba-Rushford Elementary is home to some 60 or so fifth grade students. To help teach these students about having a growth mindset, Beatrice Bottomwell of The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes painted a picture of overcoming challenges and growing from the things that often get the best of us. In hearing main character Beatrice’s tale, students came to find that no one is perfect and that mistakes are okay; so long as we embrace them, and grow from them.
These same fifth graders were given a challenge: cut a piece of paper so that an adult could walk through it. Words such as “impossible,” “hard,” and “can’t” rang through the halls of CRCS. Cuts were made, paper was ripped, and students sat staring wondering how this challenge could ever be fulfilled. In talking about how the initial mistakes were made, and the emotions that the students felt, they learned; they grew. Before you knew it, these same fifth graders that had points of frustration and attitudes of “I give up” were walking through paper left and right!
As some students shared, making mistakes on math problems is common, and while thinking “we can’t” when faced with a tough problem, they come to realize that with effort and commitment, they can get through it. Others felt they simply couldn’t tumble, a recent unit of study in PE. Despite that belief, after practicing and asking for help, that attitude of “I can’t” turned to one of “I can.” Without realizing it, fifth graders were sharing stories of how they took a fixed mindset and transferred it to a mindset of growth.
As teachers, it is important to acknowledge when students are making the most of the mistakes they’ve made, learning how to overcome challenges and those bumps in the road. Whether it be a challenge in the classroom or a challenge in everyday life, having a growth mindset can help adults and students alike to have an attitude of CAN as opposed to an attitude of CAN’T. Students thrive in environments that support their growth as learners. By learning from Beatrice Bottomwell, and by embracing challenges such as the paper activity, students can begin to see that life is more about the journey than the destination; it’s more about the path we take to find success than the immediacy of doing well.
By: Lauren Stuff, CA BOCES Professional Development
“What did you learn today?
What mistake did you make today that taught you something? What did you try hard at today?
– Carol Dweck