The uncertainty is weighing heavily on all of us. Unable to plan the school year as usual, we feel like are drowning in shifting sands. Without school as the center of our families’ lives, we feel lost. After all, schools are one of the cornerstones of modern society.
But learning doesn’t simply exist in a building. And community ties flourish beyond elementary, middle, or high school properties. As the pandemic drags on, it’s clear that we must change our perspective. We cannot bend COVID-19 to our will, but we can adapt to the new normal that’s been thrust upon us.
Throughout history, humans have adapted and evolved with change. Just a short time ago, we had telephones tethered to the wall which were shared by everyone. Now, people have their own personal phones. Sharing a phone line is unheard of. We used to have one room schoolhouses. We evolved beyond that to schools divided into classrooms according to children’s ages. A pandemic changes the the paradigm yet again.
Schedules provide both adults and children with a sense of security. A fluid life which lacks structure can be extremely anxiety inducing. How can we stop the negative self-talk and regain control of our lives to fit the new normal?
If you have school-aged children, you’ve likely heard the term, “growth mindset.“ Most schools teach the concept of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. What do these terms mean? Coined by Stanford psychology professor and researcher Carol Dweck, PhD., the terms define how people perceive talent and skills. Are skills innate or can they be built?
Dr. Dweck found that mindset is crucial to how people handle setbacks and failures. Those who have a fixed mindset believe they are born with certain abilities and are limited to their genetic skills. Those who have a growth mindset believe intelligence can be expanded through effort, persistence, and instruction. Mindsets have an enormous impact on how happy, resilient and successful people are.
We don’t live anywhere as much as we live in our heads. The beliefs we hold are incredibly powerful and influence the way we view life.
Some people believe they have the ability to handle obstacles and setbacks. To others, challenges are terrifying and they crumble when merely faced with obstacles. The truth is , everyone can expand their abilities and change their way of doing things.
Studies by Dr. Dweck illustrate that students who have a fixed mindset see new learning experiences as a moment to be judged, not as an opportunity to learn. This can make learning a painful struggle, causing many to give up. On the other hand, students who have a growth mindset view challenges as on opportunity to learn and improve. They view hard work as a learning tool, rather than as a way to evaluate self-worth. Overall, those with a growth mindset learn and achieve at higher levels, even when they start out at the same place as those with fixed mindsets.
A growth mindset is the belief that we can develop and improve our basic abilities through effort and experience. It’s the belief that we are in control of our own abilities and that we can learn new things. In order to master anything new, we must put in effort.
Science shows that the brain has a high level of plasticity which continues to grow throughout a lifetime. By pushing out of your comfort zone, neural connections can be formed and solidified to create new understandings. You can grow your intelligence. Your brain can be developed like a muscle.
How can we achieve a growth mindset? How can we change our view of failure from a roadblock to an opportunity for growth? Carol Dweck says we must change our perspective of success. Instead of praising the outcome, celebrate the process. When you make a mistake, you haven’t failed; you’ve learned. Validate yourself rather than seeking approval from others. Enjoy the learning process rather than being focused on the outcome. Mistakes and failures open the door to new learning opportunities, allowing you to expand beyond your comfort zone.
Reframe your thinking from, “I can’t do this,” to “I can’t do this yet.” Dr. Dweck’s research shows there’s enormous power in the word, “yet.”
Instead of thinking, “I screwed up,” ask yourself, “What can I do better next time?” The first question is a judgment of fixed skills while the second embraces mistakes as learning experiences. A growth mindset welcomes input and criticism before making a decision.
Tweens and teens become self-deprecating as they feel pressure to fit in with their peers. You can help them reframe their thinking by rephrasing their statements.
When your child says, “I’m bad at math,” you can respond, “You’re still learning. You don’t understand the concept yet.” When your child is struggling with 2020’s fractured schedule, you can remind her that this is new and we are all adjusting. Reframing the issue in terms learning and growing gives people control over their lives which significantly reduces anxiety.
It’s important to praise your child along the way instead of focusing solely on the outcome. If your child has a virtual classroom, tell him he’s doing a great job adapting to the new situation. Tell her she’s learning to handle challenges well. Usually, we praise our kids at the end of a task such as for a grade on a test or project. Positive feedback along the way yields better achievement and, more importantly, happier kids.
Dr. Dweck says, “We don’t know everything there is to know. We have to be wrong in order to grow.”
You can train your brain like you exercise a muscle. Take baby steps and learn from setbacks. Welcome change and adapt to it. Teach your children that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort and persistence. Swapping the word, “failure” for “challenge” is life-altering.
Virtual, hybrid, home, or in-person school: whatever you decide is the right choice for your kids. Period. I know it doesn’t feel like you can handle more unexpected obstacles. But, you can. A growth mindset changes, “this is really difficult,” to “this is new.” You can learn new things. You’ve raised your children to this point, constantly learning along the way. Your kids will thrive, regardless of how they’re educated. And with a growth mindset, so will you.