You know Fire Starters, I was recently reading Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck. In it, she talks quite a bit about the importance of growth mindset and how we have to believe in our capabilities in order to see success. Her Growth Mindset Theory is essentially the idea that no matter how hard we try and how much we work, if we do not believe that we are capable, we will not see success. As a teacher the theory is one that I wish I had known more about during my first years in the classroom. You all know what I mean; the first year can be brutal for a lot of reasons. We are trained in teacher’s college to deliver curriculum and design lessons and we pass all of our exams only to land in the classroom and find that it is nothing like what we prepared to do. The students, parent, and sometimes even the situation needs more than we are prepared to address.
In my instance, I taught exclusively in high needs communities and schools. My training was absolutely not enough to ready me for the realities of classroom life and it was only support from mentors and my own dedication to children that allowed me to persist. I bring up Dr. Dweck now because after attending an anti-bias training here in my area, it occurred to me that maybe there is a connection between bias in the classroom and mindset too.
As educators, a part of the job is this inherent feeling of capability of “with-it-ness”. As a result of that feeling, it can be difficult for us to address areas of weakness. In terms of bias in the classroom, I think that it is a difficult issue to confront. Doing so in some cases literally means that a teacher has to admit that all kids are not being treated equitably in class (or in school) and that can be a hard thing to take in mentally. I don’t think that anyone deliberately wants to work against children, which is why the bias is unconscious and the realization one that some would rather not have.
I propose a new way of looking at bias in the classroom. I think that we need to approach it as educators with a growth mindset. Yes. It exists. Yes. It may even exist in our interactions with students in our classrooms. No. It is not intentional or permanent. It is something that we can grow through. It is an area of our practice that we can improve. It is an awareness that can be developed. As Dr. Dweck suggests, we have to embrace a growth mindset as we intentionally create safe spaces for all students at school. We may not get it perfect initially, but we can make it better. As long as we believe that we are capable, we will ultimately see success which is the best possible outcome for ourselves and our students.
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In the meantime, watch Dr. Dweck’s TED Talk below!
#StayLit Teacher Friends