Mindsets Matter

I hope everyone had a great week!  I am just returning from a beach vacation, where I spent a ton of quality time with my family.  I couldn’t help but remember this story a few years ago, and wanted to re-share it with you today.

It comes from an article from Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, a free online education platform.  Khan started tutoring his cousin in mathematics using Yahoo!’s Doodle notepad, and when other family members asked for the same tutoring, he decided to create a YouTube account with his lessons.  The popularity of his videos eventually prompted him to leave his job as a financial analyst in late 2009, and found Khan Academy.  Today, his channel on YouTube attracts over 4 million subscribers, and 60 million registered users in 2017.

But today, rather than the man himself, I actually want to focus on a technique that he is using to educate his own son:

Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

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Full article here.

We have talked about the growth mindset a few times at Impact Network, because of what it means for our students, and what we have always believed in for our students:  That their intelligence and abilities can grow, as long as they (and we) embrace the struggle of learning.  It means that despite the odds being against them, our scholars can persist in school, learn to read, write, do math, and go on to successful high school careers.  But in order for them to do so, we need to reflect upon how we encourage them.  We need to start complimenting them not where they are already successful, but when they work through their biggest obstacles.  And in our own lives, we need to start tackling the areas where we have failed in the past, and persevere through them.  

So this week, I challenge you all to pick something, one thing – it can be something you’ve struggled with in the workplace, a puzzle that you can’t seem to solve, anything that you’ve had difficulty in thinking about over the last few weeks.  And work at it. Work at it like you are a student again, persevere, and learn something about yourself and your brain.  If we want to expect this of others – of our teachers, of our students, and of our staff, it needs to first start with our own selves.  

 

-Reshma