I Can't Do That...Yet
I recently recorded my latest TC2 podcast, and my fellow teacher candidate and I began to talk about an interesting topic; the power of yet. I have often heard students of all ages say, “I can't do that because I'm not good at it”, or “I'm not going to try anymore because it's too hard for me and I can't do it”. This mentality is not new. In fact, it's a pretty standard way of thinking. As an adult, I have encountered situations where I try something out for the first time, and can't get the hang of it. My instinctual reaction is to, unfortunately, give up. Why is that? Why do I give up within minutes of trying something new? We tell our students not to give up and have a positive mind; so why don’t we tell this to ourselves?
Growth mindset has swept the nation, and I’m glad I am able to teach at a time in which this is thriving. I remind my students that mistakes mean their brain is growing, and they should not be ashamed of them. Mistakes = learning. This is what we put out to our students, which is a great message. However, do we tell ourselves, as teachers and educators, this message?
I wake up on Wednesday morning, eager to teach my lesson. I have it planned to a T; and why wouldn’t it go the way it’s planned? I’ve rehearsed it in my head and watched it play out like a movie. I get to school and am still positive that nothing could go wrong.
Until it does.
No, my lesson did not go the way I planned- it didn’t seem to get through to my students. There was too much information all at once, and they weren’t grasping the concepts. Did I tell myself that mistakes make my brain grow, or that this was a learning experience?
Not even remotely close.
Instead, I questioned my ability to teach. Never mind the positive feedback I had received after the lesson (intermingled with things I could work on for next time). Instead, I fixated on how poorly I thought it went. I tell my students to do the exact opposite of this. Why am I unable to practice the growth mindset I praise so much?
I went to school during a time where A’s meant school was a good place to be. If you struggled, it was frowned upon. I constantly hid my bad marks from my peers, and was afraid to seek help. I wasn’t motivated for a very long time. Once I reached university, this was no different. In fact, this mindset was amplified. Getting a B made me question my existence (literally- I had monthly meltdowns about my career path and life). Bad grades meant I was not going to get into other programs of my choice. The little girl I was in grade 4 hiding her math marks, was a lot older now, anxiety filled about getting a B-.
I need to practice what I preach. We all do. We are all so much harder on ourselves, when we should be taking care of ourselves the most. I have repeated this so many times, but as a teacher, we are never done learning. Every year will be a new teaching experience. There are 100% going to be days where your lessons do not go as planned, and in all honesty, I think our students will see the realness in us if we are honest with them and say, “let’s try this again tomorrow”. “Students, it seems there’s a lot of information going on here. We’re going to break it down instead, and slowly work through it”. “We learned a lot of new things today, and maybe it was a little confusing. How about instead, we learn about everything step by step”. In this, we are telling our students that maybe we didn’t teach the lesson the way we wanted it to go, but we are going to try again. Don’t throw those lessons away; Try. It. Again.
I encourage all of us, no matter what profession we are part of, to practice growth mindset on ourselves. Practice the growth mindset your fourth grade self would have appreciated. Take care of you, and may your mistakes lead you to your successes.