Everyone Can Grow

As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we thank all of our teachers for the gift of Catholic education that they provide to our students and families.  They help students strive for academic growth in a faith-based environment, truly embodying our shared value of service.  This week, our teachers will reflect on what it means to be a teacher in the Seton Catholic Schools network.

By Megan Cerbins, third grade teacher at Mary Queen of Saints Catholic Academy

Growth Mindset is a relatively new concept that is weaving its way into the education system. It’s our brain’s capacity to continue to grow and change through hard work and perseverance.  It can be a struggle to get students to overcome any school or life challenges. They often become fixated on failure or stumbling blocks versus looking for the solution. Through implementing a growth mindset in my classroom, I have changed the culture in my classroom as well as my role as a teacher. I have learned a lot and I want to share some important life-changing strategies.

  • Celebrate mistakes – When a student makes a mistake or is not successful, I turn it into a celebration.  Before I say anything else, I say “I am so excited for you! You have this amazing opportunity to grow your brain by learning something new!”  This often leads to cheers from other students or shout outs. By turning a wrong answer into something positive, students are more willing to try again and try harder.
  • Opportunity for growth – In our classroom we have taken the word “failure” out of our vocabulary. Instead, I say “that is just an opportunity for growth”.  When students look at mistakes, or what they once thought of as failures with the language “opportunity for growth” it provides a second chance for success.
  • Change your mindset – In our classroom, we are very transparent with our mindsets and how they can fluctuate.  If a student thinks “I can’t do this”, or if they are not putting in the 100% effort we strive for, I am transparent with them.  I will have a conversation and say “your mindset is struggling and we need to figure out how to help you change it into a growth mindset again”.  This involves allowing a student to take a walk, color in a notebook or simply to shut their eyes for a few minutes. Transparency has allowed the students to recognize how they feel, realize they don’t need to stay in that mindset and that they have the ability to change it.
  • Be real – In our classroom, I am as honest and transparent as possible. I share mistakes that I make and times when I fall short.  I want them to see, in life, no one is free from making mistakes.

I have been incredibly blessed to witness my students grasp onto this concept. It’s common to hear a student say “have a growth mindset” to another student. It’s also common for some students to tell me that “I have a fixed mindset and I need to change it”.  When we take assessments and students do not achieve their goals, they don’t get down on themselves, but they look to what they can do differently next time.

Everyone has failed at some point, but, no one wants to share it. It’s time to share our failures and mistakes, especially with our students.  Students often hold their teachers on such a high pedestal, that they feel we can do no wrong. When we are transparent, trust grows, learning grows and a mindset shift happens.  In all our schools and in the city of Milwaukee, we need to support students through a mindset shift where mistakes are ok, they are welcomed, even celebrated, as opportunities to stretch the brain and grow skills further.  Every brain, and every kid is capable of growing and changing. As teachers, our job is to help them believe it!