By Kim Jansen
News Report Staff
It’s a small, three-letter word — but it carries a lot of meaning!
I can’t tie my shoes, yet.
I can’t run a 5k, yet.
I haven’t learned that skill, yet.
You don’t have it yet, but you will.
The word “yet” is very powerful, and that is what the teaching staff at Teutopolis Grade School is learning through a Growth Mindset program that was introduced to faculty at the beginning of the school year.
School counselor Kari Thompson and school social worker Kelly Heuerman work together to develop the district’s Positive Behavior Intervention System, with past programs focusing on character traits.
The pair, along with Grade School Principal Angie Sheehan, began discussing the Growth Mindset philosophy, which has been a hot topic in education.
“I have gone to a couple conferences where that has been the buzz word,” said Thompson.
The Growth Mindset philosophy was introduced by Dr. Carol Dweck, who conducted studies relating to students’ attitudes about failure and how students reacted to setbacks.
Through these studies, Dweck began to understand the link between mindsets and achievement, particularly those who believe they can get smarter through effort and more likely to spend extra time and assert more effort, which leads to higher achievement.
“The power of ‘yet’ is something,” said Sheehan. “The Growth Mindset teaches that you have the ability to learn anything and to embrace challenges.”
Thompson said the Growth Mindset, when used in an educational environment, can have a great effect on the way teachers present lessons and on how students approach learning.
“It reinforces over and over that skills are not born,” said Thompson. “Teachers are praising efforts, instead of the accomplishment. It is about doing the best you can do.”
When working with students, teachers are reinforcing the concept that you are not born a good student or you are not born a good athlete, but rather your focus, effort and energy are directly related to your abilities.
“We are trying to get them to look at their abilities differently,” said Thompson. “You might not get math yet, but it will come. Or, it is ok to make a mistake and fail, but what would you do different.”
Thompson added the reaction and language used by a teacher is essential when promoting a Growth Mindset.
“We are praising the effort, instead of the accomplishment. We are encouraging the child by praising the effort. It is about doing the best you can do,” she added.
Sheehan said the elementary faculty is just getting started with the program and are excited to see the program progress.
“We by no means have it mastered. We are still just learning,” said Sheehan. “The teachers have been very receptive. It is a program they are using both in the classroom and in their personal lives, which makes it easy to convey to the students because they are living it and feeling it.”
Sheehan added the program is being introduced slowly to staff in small doses, which gives them a chance to reflect on the lessons and implement strategies without being overloaded with information and concepts.
“We wanted to slowly get our feet wet this year by educating our staff before taking it to the students,” said Thompson. “We want the staff to have buy-in so they will use it, then we will have mini lessons with the students.”
Sheehan added initially the program was going to be taken to the students first, but then they decided to slow it down to make certain the staff was on board.
“We needed our staff to be thinking this way and to feel this philosophy before they can effectively take it to their classrooms and to make it materialize for the students,” said Sheehan. “So far, we are pleased with what we are seeing, but we are in the beginning stages.”
For Thompson, one of the most exciting parts of the program is that it doesn’t stop at academics, but can be used in all facets of life.
“If you can have this mindset as you go through life, when you face challenges and problems, you are going to have a plan of action,” said Thompson. “Part of life is having setbacks and learning to work harder.
“This is a lifelong learning tool that students can use, not just here at grade school, but through college and in life,” she added.
The mindset at the grade school is already starting to evolve, according to Sheehan, who said students are less anxious and are willing to take risks.
“We want them to enjoy the process of learning, instead of it being a task to be mastered, but more a process to be enjoyed,” said Sheehan.
The most exciting aspect of the program, as far as Sheehan is concerned, is the tools it provides to students.
“I envision our kids being adults with this philosophy — that is what gets me the most excited. Think how wonderful it would be for our kids to grow up with this attitude,” said Sheehan.
“It is a lifelong learning mindset or tool that they can use, and we hope that they will continue to use it,” she added.