On my recent school camp at Totaranui with Year 5 and 6 children one of the popular activities was riding the bike track. Boys and girls attempted it again and again with varying success. The children who seemed to get the most satisfaction out of riding the track, however, were the ones who conquered their fear and tried. They had to use a lot of effort to overcome the difficulty they believed the track provided, yet they did it, even after falling off, grazing elbows and knees, and ‘failing’ in the conventional sense.
Solving problems makes them smarter
If we’d focussed on winners and losers, many of the girls would have refused to try. Instead our focus was on giving it a go.
I was reminded of this when I viewed a YouTube video entitled ‘The power of yet’ by educator Carol S Dweck. In the presentation on her research into the progress of ‘failing’ children, she offered the term of “Not Yet”.
The power of ‘not yet’
Telling a child they have Not Yet achieved means they understand they are moving towards something, and that so-called ‘mistakes’ are a signal to choose a new way of trying. She calls it a ‘growth mindset’. For example, you might not yet have achieved the perfect times tables mark, or rugby try, or writing style (but you will do).
Compare that to what we often say to our children: “That’s a lovely painting BUT …” The BUT implies failure.
So how can we be more positive and bring in the concept of ‘NOT YET’?
Tacking difficulty makes them SMARTER
“That’s a lovely painting. I can see how you’re developing blending colours or shadowing …” or whatever new process they are learning.
To give your children an understanding of ‘not yet’ they need to know a bit more about how the mind works; they need to understand that using effort and tackling difficulty grows their brain neurons and makes them SMARTER.
Dr Dweck says that instead of looking for the perfect score, we should praise the process they took to get there, their effort and the strategies they try. In other words a C grade is a step along the path towards gaining an A Grade.
Nobody is ‘average’, everybody has the potential to reach the goals they set for themselves, and on the way they will naturally become SMARTER. It’s just brain physics.
Tre Sylvawood, Acting Principal, Takaka Primary