Belief matters: How a growth mindset unlocks confidence and achievement

Today’s post was written by Kim Strobel. She is an empowered motivational speaker, education consultant, and happiness coach who works with K-12 teachers and schools throughout the Midwest. She will also be a featured speaker at Ditch That Conference in September! Find her online at StrobelEducation.com.

Recently, I had a rather enlightening conversation with my son and three of his friends.

Many times, students feel like they either have it or they don't. They don't think they can change. Bringing growth mindset to the classroom can change that. (Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash.)

Many times, students feel like they either have it or they don’t. They don’t think they can change. Bringing growth mindset to the classroom can change that. (Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash.)

Two of his buddies absolutely hate school. They struggle and muddle their way through. Of course, they have their own special gifts; basketball is an area where they excel. But things like reading, writing, and math? Those don’t come as easily to them.

And that really hit home for me. Though I’ve taught reading in many capacities for years now, it was far from my favorite subject when I was a child.

In elementary school, my fellow students and I were assigned to reading groups named after birds. Elite readers were the Cardinals and Bluebirds, while average readers were Robins, and struggling readers were labeled Blackbirds. (There was definitely a “pecking order” in this bird-based system!)

The little Blackbird. (Photo courtesy of Kim Strobel)

The little Blackbird. (Photo courtesy of Kim Strobel)

My hazy memories tell me I was either a Robin or Blackbird. (To this day, my loving, supportive mother insists I was at least a Robin). I was able to read, but I struggled, especially with comprehension.

What I remember vividly, however, is how it felt to be labeled in a way that felt so permanent. We were assigned our groups and never given an opportunity to move or improve our standing throughout our elementary years.

Once a Blackbird, always a Blackbird!

That Blackbird label followed me to other areas. Every year, I’d hope to be assigned a prominent role in the school play. And every year I was disappointed because those roles went to the Cardinals and Bluebirds of the class. My cousin Pat, a Bluebird, was once chosen for the lead in Johnny Appleseed. I remember thinking how much smarter than I am he must be.

I judged my self-worth as a student on not being classified as one of the “smart” kids and was certain I’d never escape that Blackbird label. That’s pretty devastating for a young student.

I told this story to my son’s friends, and I could tell they were astonished. A teacher had trouble in school as a student?

But this is exactly why I believe in incorporating a Growth Mindset curriculum in our schools—and I why I take my Growth Mindset workshop directly to teachers all across the state of Indiana. Growth Mindset shows students they can develop, cultivate, and improve their abilities and intelligence; they’re taught they have the capacity to learn and grow.

Research has shown that our implicit beliefs about our intelligence can have a great impact on our achievement. Unfortunately, far too many of our students don’t believe in themselves or their worth. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

5th grade students created Happiness Rocks for a Growth Mindset Project. They placed the rocks around their school to be found in hopes of making others smile. (Photo courtesy of Kim Strobel)

5th grade students created Happiness Rocks for a Growth Mindset Project. They placed the rocks around their school to be found in hopes of making others smile. (Photo courtesy of Kim Strobel)

As I’ve observed and helped implement growth mindset projects and curriculums in schools across the state …

  • I’ve seen students’ attitudes improve and the overall culture of the classroom and school expand toward a more positive and productive climate.
  • I’ve witnessed students learn the value of productive struggle and feel safe taking risks in the effort of learning something new. I’ve seen classroom climates infused with a sense of purpose and contribution. I’ve watched children’s self-esteem being cultivated.
  • I’ve seen entire classrooms and schools adopt this growth mindset practice, and it has literally transformed the school culture into one that promotes positivity, happiness, and the value of growing.
Students in Jessica Moyes’ art class at Sharon Elementary School painted happiness rocks and created a happy walking path to teach students they can make the world a better place. (Photo courtesy of Kim Strobel)

Students in Jessica Moyes’ art class at Sharon Elementary School painted happiness rocks and created a happy walking path to teach students they can make the world a better place. (Photo courtesy of Kim Strobel)

And isn’t this what we all want? We want our children to have confidence and feel like they can have a positive impact on their school and their community. We want them to believe they have the power to make our world a better place. And every single teacher wants high achievement levels for their students.

It’s time to incorporate a social curriculum back into our schools and give students opportunities to become life-long contributing members of this big, wonderful world. YOU can give them this opportunity.

And it all begins with Growth Mindset.

Kim Strobel does trainings in the Midwest for teachers on topics ranging from Growth Mindset to Genius Hour to Standards-Based Grading. Find more information at StrobelEducation.com.

Question: How have you seen a growth mindset promoted in schools and/or in the classroom? How important is it that students view themselves as dynamic and capable of improvement? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

 DateEvent / Event DetailsCity / More Info
+ 01/05/2018
Taylorville CUSDTaylorville, IL
+ 01/08/2018
Princeville CUSDPrinceville, IL
+ 01/26/2018
Erie 1 BOCESWest Seneca, NY
+ 01/29/2018
Jackson R-2 School DistrictJackson, MO
+ 02/02/2018
California League of Schools (DBC)Monterey, CA
+ 02/07/2018
Ditch That Homework Workshop (Region 8 ESC)Fort Wayne, IN
 Venue:The Summit
1025 W. Rudisill Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46807
Public Event
+ 02/08/2018
Ditch That Homework WorkshopMishawaka, IN
 Venue:Northern Indiana Educational Service Center (NIESC)
56535 Magnetic Drive
Mishawaka, IN 46545
Public Event
+ 03/07/2018
Delaware Association of School Admin2 Skype Presos
+ 03/16/2018
Lake Shore Central SchoolAngola, NY
+ 06/21/2018
The Suite Life ConferenceWashington, IN
+ 08/09/2018
St. Joseph Grade SchoolSouth Bend, IN
+ 08/15/2018
St. Anthony de Padua Catholic SchoolSouth Bend, IN