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Headmaster's Blog

2016-02-12

As we approach half term it would be tempting to relax and lose focus here at school.  However, we have been busy as ever with ski days, open days, matches against visiting teams and, of course, all of the usual timetabled lessons to fit in.  I’ve also managed time to fit in some time to think about how we help the young people in our care to make the most of the opportunities that we present and build upon their successes (and failures).

I wonder how many of you reading this have ever failed an exam disastrously?  Perhaps a ‘D’ grade in your Common Entrance Latin?  And I wonder how many of you (who are candid enough to admit this) would agree that the conclusion you came to was…I’m hopeless at Latin?  I know that I did, and I know that this led to me giving Latin up at the earliest opportunity.  At the time I became convinced by a string of ‘fail grades’ that my abilities in the subject were fixed and that progress was impossible. 

In her superb TED Talk called, ‘The Power of Believing That You Can Improve’, Carol Dweck gave an alternative possibility.  She described a school in Chicago which replaced fail grades such as ‘D’ and ‘E’ with the grade ‘Not Yet’.  She suggested that this created a situation where you no longer had to think of yourself as a failure with no ability in the subject, but rather you could now appreciate that you were on a learning curve and thus it was worthwhile continuing on the journey.

Carol Dweck is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.  She developed a theory which describes people’s Mindset as being either Fixed or Growth.  She suggested that a person with a Fixed Mindset would believe that their success is based on innate ability and thus they can’t affect their own intelligence.  Conversely, a person with a Growth Mindset would believe that their success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness and so they would believe that they could achieve more by learning from their failures.

I wonder which of these two mindsets you would use to describe yourself?  Which one would you prefer for your children?  I wonder which one you would want us to help develop here at Craigclowan?

Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset

I can learn anything I want to

I’m either good at it or I’m not

When I am frustrated, I persevere

When I’m frustrated, I give up

I want to challenge myself

I don’t like to be challenged

When I fail, I learn

When I fail, I’m no good

If you succeed, I am inspired

Tell me that I am smart

Tell me that I try hard

If you succeed, I feel threatened

My effort and attitude determine everything

My abilities determine everything

Of course, the good news is that as a school and as a parent you can help to develop this ‘Growth Mindset’.  You could begin by asking your son or daughter questions at the end of each day such as:

  • Did you learn anything new today?
  • What did you find challenging today?
  • Was there anything that you had to try really hard at today?
  • Is there anything you failed at today?  What did you learn from this?

Over half term I will do more reading and thinking about Growth Mindsets to consider what else we can do here at school to develop them…I will let you know in due course what I come up with!

Meanwhile, I hope that you all have an excellent half term and recharge the batteries ready for the challenges and adventures ahead.

John F Gilmour
Headmaster

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