Session 4 Excerpt
Excerpt From Session #4
I Am Not My Grades
Watch Video: Animation of Fixed Mindset Student (0:48)
Me: In the video, she gives up and thinks, “I don’t want to look dumb.” This one thing stops us from so much happiness in life. But sometimes we don’t even know we’re thinking it.
Colette: But she wouldn’t look dumb even if she has a hard time. That was something more challenging than the rest of the class is on.
Me: Right, yet she’s so fixed on not looking dumb that she can’t see that. And when the teacher asks if she needs help, what does she say?
Alejandro: “These kinds of problems aren’t really my thing. This is so boring.”
Me: Whenever I hear that in my classrooms, I know students have gotten to the point where they can’t do the work, but don’t want to ask for help. So they say, “This is boring,” to avoid looking dumb. The thing is, who’s telling them they’re dumb?
Colette: They are.
Me: That’s a key, isn’t it? Neurons are firing and hardwiring, because WE are the ones who tell it to ourselves. In our own head, we think it. And then that pattern stops us from so many other opportunities once it gets wired.
Is it possible to always look smart and to never look dumb?
Colette: No, because you’re always learning, and you’re not going to be smart in it at first.
Me: What might happen the next time she takes a test and not only doesn’t get 100%, but gets a low grade?
You know, I’ve seen this happen a number of times over the years. Confident, intelligent students bursting into tears the first time they got a bad grade on a test. In that moment, the possibility that we might not be who he thought we were is too great to bear.
This is fixed mindset at work. But like Colette said earlier, to grow we have to learn, and that means failing sometimes. Learning means it’s ok not to know; that we have something to learn.
And why is “I’m so smart” sometimes a fixed mindset thought?
Colette: If you do think like that, then when you get to something where you have to learn or fail, you could totally crash. You don’t have any self-confidence.
Me: Something my students often said before or after a test was, “I am not my grades.” We practiced saying this, repatterning the fear. And if they did get a bad grade we'd say, “I can use this test as a map of what I need to study to get better next time.” It relieves stress. And their parents loved hearing it. It's such a different mindset.