As I wrote about earlier, we had a great opportunity to learn from Jo Boaler recently about mindsets, and how they relate to math teaching and learning. I’ve thought a lot about what this means for my work both as a parent and as a professional.
In terms of my agency, I feel that the majority of our department operates from a tremendous growth mindset. We all know and value failure and mistakes, and we regularly lean on each other for assistance and help. We also understand that deep thinking and collaboration often lead to conclusions and problem solves that we would never be able to identify on our own. Such is the true value of open inquiry and spending time working through complex ideas.
And yet, I don’t see this as much at home. Somehow, my oldest has developed a much more fixed mindset around her work and around challenging problems. It isn’t uncommon for her to say, “I can’t do this” and seek me or my wife out for assistance. We often tell her we will provide her with help, but she needs to lead us, not the other way around. We want to support her, but we don’t want to carry her.
At times, this frustrates her, as “an easy answer” would be much more preferable to her than having to put the work into thinking through the idea. But, through patience (which, in fairness, I don’t have as much as I should), we can often help her to help herself towards thinking about things differently, and identifying different solves.
What is so fascinating is that this fixed mindset view is opposite to how I tend to carry myself, so it is clear that numerous other influences are also shaping her view of the world. This is important, and necessary, but also something that she will need to think about as time goes on. Who should influence her thinking? Why? What can she do to make sure that she evaluates the comments and actions of others so that they fit into her way of thinking and doing?
Just as with those in my professional family, I can’t force her to live through a growth mindset frame. But, I can help her see the difference between that and a fixed mindset, and help her to choose, in hopes, that she desires a life filled with more wonderment and less worry.