Smart Is Now A Dirty Word?

Tuesday is for Teachers, Parents, and Grandparents

Flashback to my reading class of 8th graders in 2010:8thwindow

The class is dragging. Attention has strayed, and I need something to jolt them to refocus their attention.

“Everyone stand up.Groans, moans, mumbling. “Now raise your hands in the air.” More groans and eye-rolling.

“Take a deep breath. Slowly, slowly let it out. One more time; deep breath as you raise your arms. Now as you lower them, let the air out, slowly. Thanks! Now have a seat. You are smarter than you were 3 minutes ago!

“Oh come on, Dr. Souder. That’s crazy,” states Patricia.

I quickly reply, “It’s true! When you stood and took deep breaths you increased the oxygen to your brain! Oxygen is like food for your brain. Feed it to make it grown and work better.”

Did this little exercise work? Hard to say. Depended on the time of day and that invisible dynamic of classroom culture.

BUT in the last month I’ve been researching this topic of Grit and Growth Mindset, and I’ve found my one mistake in this exercise was to tell my students they were smarter. The stretching, oxygen piece are true.

Listen to this NPR story from “All Things Considered” about Lenox Academy. It is a school for gifted students, but they never use the word “gifted” — not teachers or students! The idea is that by telling someone they are smart is praising their intelligence. It implies that our intelligence cannot be changed. And the damage? It harms motivation and performance.

In Dr. Carol Dwek’s research she found that children will attempt more difficult tasks when their effort is praised. If their intelligence is praised, they choose the easier tasks. It is essential that we teach children and teenagers to continue to challenge themselves despite mistakes.

I’ve created a Pinterest board called Brainology (Dr. Dwek’s program that teaches Growth Mindset) with a few quotes and videos that reinforce this concept.

I’ve found the website that offers more information. You have to sign in (but it’s free) in order to read the blog and all the helpful information. Once you are logged in, search these Free resources for posters, excellent feedback tools to use in talking to students, children, or grandchildren. You can sign up to receive a newsletter and read more about the company, Brainology.

I have not read this children’s book by Dr. Dweck but you can see sample pages at Amazon.Fantastic Brain

I’ll be adding more resources as I find them in my research. Have I mentioned that I love to research? The more I learn about our brains the more thankful and amazed I am. Seems like the more we learn about the brain, the richer and deeper our understanding.

I thank God for our amazing, fantastic, elastic brain!




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