Starting the School Year Off with a Mindset Lesson from My Three-Year-Old

Starting the School Year Off with a Mindset Lesson from My Three-Year-OldFor the last week of summer vacation, my three-year-old son Frankie and I headed to Rhode Island and spent time with my parents. I grew up in the Ocean State, so it’s important to me that he gets to experience all the beauty and adventures available in New England. As a three-year-old, everything is magical, and Frankie now has the mental capacity to store memories and think back on a day or week’s events with fond (or sometimes not-so-fond!) memories. Therefore, to soak up those last days of summer, we packed in the fun. A day at Thomasland (for anyone unfamiliar, Thomas is the most popular train I know), a day floating on the Sakonnet River, a day at Roger Wheeler beach, and during the eclipse, we had just finished our tour of the Boston Aquarium. We. Were. Busy. Sometimes, when I’m running around, trying to soak it all in, I forget to stop and enjoy the small moments of fun. Little nuggets of time that somehow, amidst the chaos of everyday life, find their place safely in my memory.

One of those nuggets happened on our way home from the beach.

We had stopped at Twin Willows, a local restaurant that my parents frequented when they were students at the University of Rhode Island, and one they like to go back and visit to relive their glory days. Of course, as we were directed to our table, my wide-eyed son noticed the three arcade games in the corner and asked to play. I did my “Maybe after we eat” line with the hope that he’d forget, which of course, he did not. So as we tried to leave, we found ourselves playing a round of “bowling.” The kind where you propel a disk on the table board and hope to knock the pins up and score.

As an adult, I know that the goal is to hit as many pins as possible in one turn. However, my son does not know the purpose of the game. Therefore, when my brown-eyed boy pushed the disk, and one pin went up, I thought, “Oh, too bad.” Thank goodness I didn’t say that out loud because Frankie’s response – with the utmost excitement – was, “I GOT ONE!” He proceeded to play, and scoring similarly in almost every shot, he kept talking to himself, saying, “Try again. Almost got it!” When he finished playing, he exclaimed, “I got three scores! That was so fun!”

As we walked to the car, and I let this nugget of time find its way in my memory, I thought about how lucky I am to send my child to a preschool where he will be encouraged to see the positive. Encouraged to keep developing this growth mindset. Encouraged to believe that getting one the first time is a step toward success, and prompt him to try again.

I am also lucky enough to work in a school district that believes in instilling growth mindset in our students. Our staff took part in a book study of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, and Power of Yet was a popular phrase. I can’t do it, yet. I don’t understand it, yet. This doesn’t work, yet. As a mother and teacher, I’m thankful for that professional development because it also taught me to teach my three year-old the Power of Yet. We’re at the point where I no longer need to prompt him to add “yet” when he says, “I can’t do it.”

However, as I start a new school year, with 21 students whose names I just learned, and whose learning styles, interests, and passions I’m eager to discover, I want to remember not to just teach my students the value of a growth mindset, but to maintain one myself. So the next time my son hits one out of ten pins down, or a student gets one out of ten math problems right, I’ll rejoice and say, “You got one!” That response is more likely to have my son, and my students, gear up, and try again. And trying again is one step closer to finding success.

To learn more about encouraging a growth mindset, check out more blogs on the topic:

http://blog.mindsetworks.com/entry/start-the-year-off-right

https://www.nwea.org/blog/2015/superheroes-growth-mindset/