Throughout our school year, I plan to introduce the kids to a variety of habits, or traits, that support a growth mindset. These traits will become a central theme as we navigate second grade together. Mindset is an idea credited to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck after many years of researching achievement and success. By definition, if you have a growth mindset, you believe that your skills, habits, and abilities are growing and changing and can improve with effort. In contrast, a fixed mindset is defined as having the belief that your abilities are already set, or fixed.
Today, I introduced optimism, the first of the five traits or habits that we will focus on throughout the year in cultivating a growth mindset. I began by reading the book, Elephants Cannot Dance, by Mo Willems. In this book, Piggie invites Gerald to dance. Gerald, who is convinced that he cannot, decides to give it a go
nonetheless. In the end, Gerald realizes that he actually can dance, he just needed to give it a try. I used this as a springboard to share our (second grade) definition of optimism, "When you do something new, you think, 'I can try', and give it your best shot because that's how you grow." I was thrilled to hear the children immediately connecting with this new word, sharing ways that just like Gerald, they have been optimistic too. One classmate shared that she was optimistic this past summer when her swimming instructor asked her to try and do the backstroke. Another friend shared that he was optimistic when he went skiing for the first time. Needless to say, this was music to my ears! I concluded this lesson by sharing with the kids that we are going to keep our eyes open this year for when we see or feel optimism both in our classroom and in the whole world.
In the coming weeks I plan to introduce flexibility and empathy, two additional traits that help support a growth mindset.