A Growth Mindset

By Steve Salvo, Head of School

I believe strongly in a growth mindset and the power of the word, “yet”, when it comes to learning and both personal and professional growth. The renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck essentially coined this phrase and approach, having dedicated much of her research to human behavior linked to both perceived successes and failures. If you haven’t watched her “Power of Yet” TedX talk yet, I highly recommend it.

A fixed mindset,  Dweck writes in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is really built around the premise and belief that intelligence and personality are static or deep-seated. This belief can impact both the perceived and realized outcomes for those who embrace it as their modus operandi. 

A growth mindset energizes an “I can’t” statement by simply reminding oneself that it’s not about what one can or can’t do at this precise moment. “I don’t understand fractions” morphs into “I don’t understand fractions...YET”. And while the correct next-level action steps must indeed occur for this journey to merit hope, often occurring in a safe and trusted learning environment where smart risk-taking is emphasized and honest and candid conversations are welcomed, the true power of this approach lies in the willingness of the individual to not only accept but embrace challenges, to respond to constructive and well-meaning criticism, to persist, to be resilient, and yes, to sometimes fail spectacularly. I hear many parents state that they want their children to handle such adversity, only to find themselves battling our society’s default emphasis on “final” results, whether that comes in the form of report card grades, championship game scores, or awards ceremonies. And while final results do oftentimes matter, we need to also embrace the process that gets us there and, quite honestly, has the potential to be never-ending.

I encourage us all to embrace the process of learning and growth. We should not be afraid of failure. You can use these links to read about failure-based learning in the realm of business organizations and home/school life as it relates to promoting confident and resilient teenagers.

While I know the notion of “failing” as a Head of School probably doesn’t sound necessarily positive for a school’s short or long term viability, I must tell you that I am unafraid of taking smart risks or making changes/updates that we believe are in the best interest of our students and school community. Therefore, I truly do embrace this growth mindset as a school leader and educator. As someone who still teaches for an independent school consulting firm during the summer months and now facilitates the 8th grade Public Speaking class at SMEDS, I can tell you that I have never delivered the “perfect” classroom lesson. There are always missed opportunities and ways to improve my delivery, content, and the experience of those around me. I welcome this challenge and ongoing opportunity to grow.

I believe St. Mary’s provides a wonderful home for such growth opportunities to occur for our most important customers...the 458 students we are blessed to work with each and every day.

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