This week’s name tags presentation from Chris Waddell, the paraplegic athlete who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, focused on viewing the world, and a person’s place in it, in a positive fashion. Through all of his accomplishments, Chris shared with us his journey of overcoming “name tags” people want to place on him, such as paraplegic, victim, and tragedy. Instead of allowing others to frame our story in the world, the message our students heard challenged them to create their own name tags for how they want the world to view them.
This message resonates strongly with our forty residence students, many of which come to us as representatives and “ambassadors” of their home country. Often their opportunity here comes with expectations of not only doing well for themselves, but also to learn about the world so they can return home and share their experiences with others. Many of them feel the pressure of these name tags and this pressure can translate to fear of failure. “What happens if I cannot meet the expectations of my family back home?” Mr. Waddell’s message of not focusing on what happens to you, but what you do with the situation provides a strong message for all of our learners.
If our students create their own name tags, their learning becomes their own and they drive the process. The concept of a growth mindset applies here.
This semester we have started to speak with our residential and day students about the concept of mindsets. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck, a Stanford University brain psychologist, discusses mindsets- the idea that how a student perceives their abilities plays a key role in their motivation and achievement in their learning. A fixed mindset tells a learner that their intelligence, basic abilities and talents are “fixed”… for example, I am either good or bad at math, or, I am not a fast runner so I cannot even participate in the race! A growth mindset believes that abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort, learning, persistence and resilience.
All of our brains are combinations of the fixed and growth mindsets. Focusing on what you CAN do with what you have starts with an awareness of yourself. The growth mindset accepts challenges and failure as learning opportunities. In a Math class, a growth mindset might ask, “Is there more than one way to solve a math problem?” If one method does not work for you, what is another way to do it?
Chris Waddell’s message about name tags supports the idea that we can all excel thought persistence and resilience… learning from our failures! Brains and talent are simply the starting point. The good news here: this discussion is not only for our students, but a growth mindset among parents and educators is needed in order to support our young learners.
Chris Green, Head of Residential Life