Let me take you back to the year 2013. This was the end of the fourth grade and my students could take a state assessment and pass, BUT they could NOT persevere or challenge themselves to go beyond the status quo. I felt as if I let them down. The Universe heard my concern and granted me another year with them as their 5th grade teacher. My charge; teach them tenacity and grit! How? Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset.
I took great care in designing my class; filled with quotes, motivational posters and art. My Bell Work consisted of songs, video clips and picture books of perseverance, overcoming challenges BUT most of all people failing . I didn’t want them to think that effort equaled success. I wanted them to understand that challenge , failures , learning from mistakes , and redoing those failures was more rewarding than giving “good enough”!
The conversations, teamwork and effort really started to overflow into the hallways, at recess and into other teachers’ classrooms. It wasn’t until I was with a group of students who were truly overcoming one if their biggest challenges; retaking the state exam to move forward to the next grade , that I truly saw grit at its most raw form.
These students believed in their core that they were dumb and that NOTHING was going to change that- even after all our motivational class talks. I began teaching them about the new belief that the brain is like a balloon or a muscle , about neurons , and about the practice it takes to make these dendrite connections strong enough to remember difficult information. We watched video clips about the brain and renacted the brains connections using yarn. THIS was the missing link! This was when they started to believe in the Power of Yet. They weren’t great at the state reading expectations YET but would be with enough grit, tenacity, practice and help.
State scores came back a few weeks later to prove that these students not only could pass that test but had made gains in their progress ( closing gaps) in their education. They had proof on paper that they were starting to make STRONG dendrite connections. !!!! That learning from mistakes and effort does make you a better learner.
I am very grateful for the studies on the brain, studies on how students succeed and the perseverance every one of those students had. I am even more grateful for the second chance the Universe gave me with those students- and the third chance I’m getting this year.