Managing Technology Distractions
November 22, 2011
Help Kids Find the Passion for Reading
July 16, 2012

Mistakes as Opportunities

We have found that we are able to help students achieve even more with tutoring when we address their mindset, a concept we learned from Carol Dweck’s wonderful book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.Below, tutor Brandon talks about his experience using our mindset curriculum with one of his students.

Carol Dweck’s book Mindset lays out some interesting ideas about the way we perceive success and failure. She says that we can have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, when we fail at something, it means that we ourselves are failures. Clearly this idea is not conducive to learning and performing at a high level. In a growth mindset, however, failure is simply an opportunity to learn, grow, and be better in the future.

I’m tutoring a ninth grader right now in executive functioning, incorporating Dweck’s mindset principles. Since beginning work on the mindset curriculum, my student has made great strides in preparing for tests, advocating for himself and asking for help from teachers and other students. He now knows that when he succeeds, he should celebrate his success and move on to the next challenge. When he fails, he knows now to dissociate himself from the failure so that he may objectively examine his mistakes and correct them in the future. After all, did Michael Jordan make every shot he took? Of course not! He had to fail in order to learn from his mistakes and correct them.

Basketball has been a really great access point for my student to absorb the mindset principles. He loves basketball, and his favorite team is the North Carolina Tar Heels. I asked if he thought he could get there, and though he replied yes, I could sense some doubt on his part. We then proceeded to draw a sort of goal tree. At the top of the tree was the goal of making the team at North Carolina. We then drew branches to show what he would need to do to get there: which skills and sub-skills he would have to develop both academically and athletically. Completing that exercise helped him break down a larger goal into more manageable tasks. It’s no longer a matter of being good enough to make the team – it’s about working as hard as possible to achieve a goal.

The mindset curriculum is an excellent tool for students because it shows them that what they do wrong does not define them. They can change their opinions and propel themselves forward in school and in life if they equip themselves with the proper mindset.