By Carrie Bucksath, Preprimary Directress
This year, we are looking more closely at Growth Mindset as a teaching staff. Growth mindset is defined as “a belief system that suggests that one’s intelligence and/or talents can be grown or developed with persistence, effort, and a focus on learning.” It is not fixed. The focus is on the process of learning and the belief that anyone can learn anything/do anything with determination and perseverance. It emphasizes perseverance and the effort put into the learning and in the development of skills for future use.
In the book Mindset in the Classroom, the author Mary Cay Ricci found that “100% of the kindergarten children demonstrated a growth mindset. They came into school at kindergarten thinking they can learn and be successful. They were enthusiastic, full of promise, and ready to absorb social and intellectual knowledge.”
This is demonstrated daily in our preprimary classrooms! A young student will get out the movable alphabet box and pull letters out to “write words,” another will get a tray and begin filling it with golden beads, even before having a formal lesson, or they will get a book they see the older children reading and “read” it to an adult. They are intrigued and want to engage with the beautiful materials. When asked if they have had a “lesson,” often they will reply with “Yes” and continue to work!
Even with this feeling of being able to learn anything, it is common among our youngest students for the child to encounter something they have not mastered yet. Maybe it’s swinging or going across the monkey bars independently, or writing his/her own name, or cutting out the shape on the line. They often ask for help. By teachers supporting, but not stepping in right away, we reinforce the importance of the process over the product. We acknowledge the struggle to master and support the growth. This is when we discuss not being able to complete the task independently “Yet!”
Through practice, repetition and the growth mindset of our young children perseverance reigns. The children work through the “yet” until they accomplish the goal they have set for themselves. When they achieve the goal, the pride is evident in the size of the smile on their face. We, as adults in the child’s life, strive for this perseverance and acknowledge that the child practiced until mastery was attained. We focus on the effort to get there and rejoice with the child.
At home, parents can also encourage a growth mindset by helping their child work through the “yet”, and supporting the struggle. This struggle creates strength and mastery.
The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ -Maria Montessori