California High School student Adilene Rodriguez spoke with KQED MindShift about how her teachers gave her confidence in the classroom through changing her approach to learning with a growth mindset. Through the encouragement of her teachers, Rodriguez learned that intelligence grows with effort and dedication, not just genetics. Read an excerpt and listen to her story:
Rodriguez is now a senior and her approach to school has changed dramatically over her high school career. She attributes her shift to her freshman science teacher, Jim Clark, who taught the class about growth mindset from the very beginning and backed up the discussion with action.
“He would tell me, ‘You need to push yourself, that’s how you’re going to grow. Be confident. You’re not always going to be successful on your first tries, but you can get there,’ ” Rodriguez said.
She didn’t believe him at first; she thought she just wasn’t good at science. But with Clark’s insistence and support, she started participating in class more and struggled through difficult units.
Rodriguez may have found her growth mindset in science class, but she’s applying it to all of her life. Take math, one of her least favorite subjects: “It’s not my strength, but I have to get through it to get to where I want to be,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes you have to learn to love things you aren’t as good at. It will be hard, but you will get through it.”
Listen to Adilene’s story:
Clark brought the idea of growth mindset to Arroyo after a chance encounter with Dweck at a conference. The idea that intelligence grows with effort is one that comes naturally to him as a teacher because of his experiences as a basketball coach. Now, he’s trying to get students to approach academics with the same dedication to practice and risk-taking that they bring to sports or other extracurriculars.
“At the end of the day we’re trying to create successful kids, some of whom will grow up to do science and some of whom won’t,” Clark said. “But if they can take what they learn in our classrooms and apply it somewhere else, that’s kind of what we’re here for.”
The kids at Arroyo often have a lot of challenges outside the classroom. Many of these students will be the first in their families to go to college. Clark knows this and it makes him even more passionate about growth mindset.He’s clear that his job is to teach science, but it’s also his job to nurture the individuals he teaches.
“Redefining smart as something that’s more effort-based than genetics-based has opened the door for kids,” Clark said. “They don’t feel like they’re behind other kids any longer because they feel that their future is in their own hands, and if they just work through their problems they’re going to be OK.”