• Aaron Daffern

Take CHARGE of the Classroom #7: Intrapersonal


This is post #7 in a 20-post series designed to disrupt outdated behavior management models and help you create the classroom culture of your dreams. This post contains excerpts from my book Take CHARGE of the Classroom.


Though we each have various degrees of innate abilities and physical characteristics, very little is out of our reach. When we see excellence and ascribe it to that person being a natural, we are in fact denigrating their achievement. Naturals don’t get noticed when that ability is divorced from effort. Inborn abilities, forged over time by persistence and determination, is what makes us gape.


The teaching point for children, then, is that everyone can make an effort. Some students might not ever have the body type typical of a professional athlete. They might face dyslexia, a weakness in computational proficiency, or memory retrieval deficiencies. What one achieves, however, has less to do with talent and more to do with effort. And everyone can have effort.


Students today need to understand that it is their effort and persistence, their grit, that will largely determine their future. Those other children that seem to have been dealt a winning hand might in fact flame out in a few years without the required effort. On the other hand, the world is replete with feel-good stories about people who overcame great adversities to fulfill their dreams. As teachers, we must emphasize that inborn abilities, left unattended, amount only to potential.


That’s the amazing part of understanding grit. Your effort counts twice and you have complete control over your effort!


Though natural talent is hit-and-miss, it’s effort in developing that talent that turns it into skill.


And everyone owns their effort!


Once we’ve honed a skill through determination and perseverance, the skill morphs into achievement through more effort.


And everyone owns their effort!


What can you do tomorrow?

Focus on effort. Talk to your students about grit and perseverance. Highlight the fact that the most important factor is effort and everyone owns their effort.


Highlight grit. Share a personal story with them about how grit helped you accomplish a goal. Start to integrate grit and perseverance into the attitudes and actions you notice among your students.


What does this look like in the classroom?

The teacher supports the development of grit by:


· Highlighting the importance of effort over talent;


· Providing unstructured time for students to develop their interests; and


· Designing practice and feedback sessions to grow students’ skills.

When giving students feedback, we should focus more on effort than intelligence. While most students don’t believe they have control over how smart they are, they’ll agree that they do have a say in how hard they work. When they succeed, praise their strategies, persistence, and resilience. This draws attention to the fact that their success depends on areas they control rather than abilities they are born with.


When they struggle, growth mindset feedback gives them a path forward. If they are stuck, we can ask questions like, “So that now you know one way that doesn’t work, what can you try next?” This highlights the fact that obstacles are meant to be overcome, not debilitating. Remember, difficulty is something to be desired. Continuing to provide them with feedback that showcases effort instead of smarts can provide some students with the spark they need to keep pushing.


Effort alone isn’t sufficient. At the end of the day, the results will prove whether or not students are successful. Some teachers have misapplied the idea of a growth mindset and believe that simply trying is enough. Don’t get sidetracked by focusing on boosting a student’s self-esteem when their effort still leaves them short of the mark.


The statement, “Great effort! You tried your best,” is a sneaky fixed mindset statement because it will normally come after a failed attempt. In an attempt to make students feel better and blunt the negative emotions associated with failure, we will sometimes try to bolster their (supposedly) fragile self-image by letting them know they at least tried. This, unfortunately, communicates the fact that they tried their best and it still wasn’t good enough! Who wants to hear that?


The statement, “Don’t worry, you’ll get it if you keep trying,” is not always accurate. Doing the wrong thing over and over will not result in success. Sometimes the knowledge and skills needed to complete something is missing and will not be discovered simply through blunt force. Trying again and again will sometimes lead students to conclude that they just aren’t good enough and shouldn’t keep trying, a fixed mindset approach.


What can you do tomorrow?


Encourage a growth mindset. As you notice students’ attitudes and academic actions, examine the praise you give them. Using some of the samples above or some of your own, make sure that the feedback you give students supports a growth rather than a fixed mindset.


Praise for effort. Emphasize their effort, the strategies they used, and normalize mistakes.


What does this look like in the classroom?

The teacher encourages a growth mindset in students by:


· Modeling a growth mindset himself/herself;


· Normalizing errors and helping students accept the desirable difficulty of tasks; and


· Using feedback statements that encourage effort and the use of strategies over raw talent.


To read more posts in this series, click here.


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