On the Growth Mindset, by Nicole Sintetos


On a day to day basis, growth can be so subtle as to be missed.  Rarely can our students look in the mirror and note the literal centimeter they sprouted overnight– or even the improvement of their study skills over the span of a week. Yet, with a little introspection paired with the help of an outsider’s perspective, their journey begins to materialize: finally, they have an understanding of where they were, and how far they have come.

 As a teacher, I cherish the first week of classes for these small moments. My sophomores have grown  a few inches over the summer and most now tower over me.  I can see my AP US students’ brains slowly rev up for their year of writing ahead with each passing assignment.  I tell them, laughingly, how much they have changed since I first taught them in English 9 and they shrug their shoulders, smiling.  It is so hard to objectively analyze our distance from the past when the present is so much more  tangible.

The theme of this year’s faculty meetings, and perhaps of the year, is the growth mindset:  an unyielding belief that skill and intelligence can be developed, that failure is constructive, and that striving for perfection is an empty endeavor compared to the value of  becoming a life long learner.  The discussion among the faculty was both eye opening and affirming. We noticed that so much of what we do here already embodies the growth mindset.  Students are pushed to acknowledge and defeat some of their academic fears in the hopes of instilling within themselves an intellectual curiosity.

More importantly, this word I previously avoided at all costs, “failure,” became less dangerous. The major skill set to value, perhaps, is not how to avoid failure (think of how crippling that would be!) but how to constructively bounce back from it.  Easier said than done, my friends!

So, I enter the year with a personal challenge I open to all of my students: to look at an accomplishment (or a failure) in the present not as an end point, but as merely one of many links to our goal of remaining life long learners.

Here’s to an excellent year.