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Academics / Mindset

Building Confidence Through a New Mindset

It seems like everywhere you turn these days the phrase “growth mindset” appears. We see it used by researchers, in TED Talks, and especially in education. A growth mindset means facing challenges head-on and knowing that no matter your success at the moment, there is always room for improvement. For students, this is a powerful shift as they build confidence and explore new concepts.

As a teacher, it is important to me to instill values such as empathy, persistence, optimism, and flexibility into our students’ minds. In Education, one of the best references for a Growth Mindset comes from Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz’s A Mindset for Learning.  Over the summer, I introduced the Gulf Stream School faculty to this work and created a monthly collaboration meeting of interested Lower School faculty members. We all want the language around growth mindset to be a part of our students’ everyday lives. 


Growing Together

Each month, we choose one keyword to focus on (i.e. flexibility, empathy, persistence, perseverance). We spend the month putting our own flare into teaching these words, keeping in mind the age and experiences of our students. The following month, we share the work that our students did. Bouncing ideas off of one another allows us to implement best practices in our own classroom and lean on our colleagues’ expertise. We choose what word to focus on based on the needs of our students, yet continue to refer to all of these words consistently throughout the school year, building a growth mindset one word at a time. While the language can vary from working with a Kindergartener to working with a Middle Schooler, the idea of adding “yet” to something you can’t do, remains a constant.

Some examples from our work so far this year:

  • Flexibility: Using the read-aloud The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, explaining how the character was flexible by using text evidence.

  • Charting what the various words mean to us and give examples from our own lives.

  • Creating motivational words and phrases we can say to ourselves as reminders to always have a growth mindset. 

  • Talking about the brain and how it works with our students


While we first introduce these words in relation to social-emotional situations, students are also able to use this language in academic subjects. We often hear a child call out, “I was flexible in using my word-solving strategies!” or “I persevered through a tricky math problem!” When they make the connection that pushing through difficulties often leads to success or new learning, they feel energized. One of my biggest goals as a teacher is to empower my students to take control of their learning and know that despite something being tricky, you can learn so much! 


Stay tuned next month and be sure to ask your kids about our next word, optimism! 


Want to shift your thinking to a growth mindset?

If you want to incorporate a growth mindset into your daily life, I highly suggest reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I have read it multiple times and always take away something new. It was a past summer reading book with our faculty and can offer great advice across numerous facets of life.

Click here for access to a growing list of books that align with a growth mindset.

We have many more ideas coming so make sure you follow Gulf Stream School on social media to stay updated with the latest Growth Mindset work. 


By: Lizzie Paskal, Grade 2 Teacher