The posts and videos on the topic of having a “growth mindset” were very informative and thought-provoking. Carol Dweck’s thoughts on changing our way of teaching youth were very powerful. In our society, we so often place so much emphasis on quantitative measures of intelligence and success that we cause harm to the mental and emotional development of younger generations. In the American public education system, students are judged by their grades, their test scores, and their ability to score within an acceptable percentile established by the district, state, or federal government.
While grades do have their place, it is simply ignorant to assume that because a student scored lower on a test than another student, they are stupid, or at the very least more stupid than the other student. This numbers-based system ignores the way children learn on an individual basis and tries to mass-produce students as we would during the industrial revolution (which, by the way, is the model for our current public education system). Additionally, those of today’s younger generations are often chastised for the need for constant validation, called “too soft” and “overly-sensitive.” Lest we forget, the participation ribbons and certificates and fifth-grade graduations and even the grading system itself that the younger generation has grown up to expect was, in fact, established by those older than us. I received participation trophies as a child…I never asked for them. We as a society cannot condition children to expect certain things and then berate them for expecting what we have given them.
In terms of our grading system, the letters awarded to students for certain achievements is actually more indicative of the need for constant validation that is criticized by others. A student working solely to get an A on a test or project, rather than working hard and challenging themselves to learn, contributes to the idea that you will get a tangible reward for everything you do. Sometimes, the reward that should be emphasized is the value of knowledge and learning. In Dweck’s video, she talks about students being rewarded when something is easy for them, and chastised when something is a challenge or “too hard.”
I absolutely love her point that challenge must become our new comfort zone because challenge begets growth and learning. Speaking from personal experience, when I was in elementary school, I was placed in the Gifted and Talented program because tests were too easy for me. The perception of this program alone is flawed, and my peers often assumed I was there because I was smarter than them. The level of work I was given in class also damaged my study habits later on in life. When I entered high school, my self-esteem plummeted; I was used to being the smart one, or at least feeling like the smart one because I turned my test in first or didn’t have to study, and suddenly having the option to take challenging courses made me feel like a failure when I did not receive all As or took the longest on a test or quiz. I also had to train myself to study and work hard for good grades because the quantitative success had previously come naturally to me. For the first time in my life, I felt stupid; I wasn’t.
I am excited to use the “Growth Mindset” philosophy in my school work and daily life. It will be a difficult task to train my brain to fight the now natural inclination to beat myself up for my failures and feel stupid when I do not know something. In stage management, I find myself feeling stupid all the time for not knowing how to do something; I aim to work to remind myself that I am here to learn, and that challenges, while uncomfortable, will make me a better stage manager, student, and individual. My two challenges for myself this semester are to:
- Ask myself what I can learn from each course and how it will benefit me, and
- Keep a journal full of inspirational quotes (like the H.E.A.R.T. posts suggested doing with memes) and document my progress in overcoming challenges.