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Fostering a Growth Mindset

By: Third Grade Teachers Lynn Frankenberger and Kristie Kerber

November 2, 2021

Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? This is a question that we have recently asked our third graders. 

If you believe that talents and skills can be developed with hard work, perseverance and determination then you have a growth mindset. These basic qualities, like your intelligence, talents, and personalities that you are born with are just the starting point. These qualities can be developed and improved. 

A fixed mindset is just the opposite. An individual with a fixed mindset believes that their basic qualities cannot improve over time. They also believe that talent alone creates success — without any effort. Rather than persevering through adversity, a person with a fixed mindset will simply give up.

It is the philosophy behind the growth mindset that leads us to intentionally teach our students this year that when you come across an obstacle, to see it as an opportunity to overcome it, not as a failure. It is a chance to grow your abilities. Idowu Koyenikan, the author of Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability (2016), states, “The mind is just like a muscle - the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand.” Our goal is to help our students build their minds and instill the growth mindset into our classroom culture.

About three times a week, we hold a class meeting that starts with a greeting. The children are encouraged to look each other in the eyes and maintain a loud, clear voice when greeting their peers. Our greetings range from shaking hands, to bowing to each other from the waist and saying, “Konnichiwa" (hello in Japanese). The students really get a kick out of these different greetings. Afterwards, we continue our meeting with a short growth mindset video. After watching the video, we engage our students in a discussion about the topic. These genuine discussions hit on the topics of why failure is important, the power of words, why it’s important to let go of negative thoughts and how the words we tell ourselves are important. After several students share, the class writes down their thoughts in their own personal Growth Mindset notebook. A few of the students’ thoughtful entries are below.

  • “Believing in yourself is important because then you can accomplish more things in your life and you can do things you don’t believe you can do.”

  • “Taking deep breaths help us calm down after getting angry. A stressful time of the day when I can practice my breathing is after a fight with a friend.”

  • “The words we tell ourselves are important because they can affect things like your life. It can change your life in a negative way. We should say positive words to ourselves because then the things you say might come true.”

  • “Failure is important because it proves you’re trying your hardest. Failure can help us grow because I can learn from my mistakes and next time I can try harder.”

  • “When I make mistakes I try again until I get it right. I don’t care how long it takes to get it right. I will try!”

Fostering a growth mindset is not only important to embrace at school, but also at home. When children make mistakes, they have a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach. We have heard them say,“That was stupid" or "Why did I do that”? They have described feelings of embarrassment and/or shame. Often times, we remind them that we are human and nobody is perfect. Talking through their mistakes will promote growth and help them view struggle as a chance to improve skills and understanding. If they continue to view their mistakes as a negative, then they will view effort and difficulty as roadblocks, rather than a path to becoming smarter. Building a growth mindset, both at school and at home, will have a positive affect on your child. According to Carol S. Dweck (2006), the author of the book Mindset, states, "If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning."

Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in St. Louis, is a private preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills.​ Request a free Rossman School brochure here.

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