Growth Mindset

At 7:30 this morning I sat, barely caffeinated and sleepy-eyed, still pregnant and hungry, smack dab in the middle of a faculty meeting pondering my core beliefs on intelligence. Is IQ fixed from birth? Or is it possible to expand one’s god-given IQ? Normally I don’t entertain such esoteric thoughts at this early hour.

Sure I had taken the “Fixed or Growth” Mindset quiz my administrator sent out earlier in the week, and according to Carol Dweck, I chose all the right answers. Passing grade for me and I haven’t even read her bookMindset: The New Psychology of Success. The book has ridden around in the trunk of my car for nearly five weeks now.

 It wasn’t until I saw this video this morning, that I began to wake up and question whether I really believe growth is possible.

Of course, this video, and the study of Dweck’s book, is centered around the belief the students can grow and learn, no matter their socioeconomic status, intelligence, home life, or personalities. I’ve always believed this for my students.

How could I not?

I was one of them once. I encountered nearly every obstacle to learning, except for race. The weights were stacked against me since my days in utero. Each risk factor hung around my neck, a collective albatross threatening to extinguish any glimmer of success. Statistics said I would be lucky to graduate high school, ever live above the poverty level, and I would likely perpetuate the patterns of my parents into my own adulthood.

Teachers said otherwise. They believed I could learn and told me I could grow in spite of having drug-addicted parents, an impoverished life, and broken family. And I did grow. And I did learn. I have a clean record, an advanced degree, a career of nearly fifteen years, and my family is stable unit most days (if you don’t count my crazy pregnancy hormones right now). On the outside I am the poster child for overcoming odds.

When it comes to my students, I unabashedly have a growth mindset. My growth mindset waivers however when it comes to myself, particularly in my writing. Somewhere along the way I have forgotten that writers never write just one draft. To create means to do it again. And again. And again. Painters and composers often spend a lifetime working on one piece.

This morning I was reminded that I need only finish this draft of my book. Then I will write another draft. And another. And six more times if that is what it takes. There will be people along the way who believe in me. They will believe in my writing. The will see me through it, each draft coming closer to the truth.

I think I will go read Dweck’s book now. And maybe write another page or two of my own.

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