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Don’t Call Your Kid Smart

Resident Teacher, Chris Fletcher reflects on growth mindset after reading this post on the ParentMap blog.

Carol Dweck’s book Mindset this past summer, this blog was a welcome refresher of some of the takeaways from the book. This article grabbed my attention right away with the quote from Abby Mansfield that said “I think that ‘smart’ is as detrimental a label as ‘dumb.’” Thinking of the number of times in the past I’ve called a student smart has me cringing after looking at the adjective through that lens. I see Mansfield’s point though. Being labeled smart carries its own burden and expectations that emphasize talent over process. Once the student enters an area that extends beyond the spheres of their talent, what are they left with? However if we focus on the process, the determination, and the effort of a student, they are equipped to tackle a wider variety of problems and enter new scenarios more confidently. Personally, I love the humility a growth mindset fosters. It allows a student to be honest with themself and say “Wow, I’m unfamiliar with this skill. I know I may not succeed right away but let’s give it a shot.” As an educator, I’m becoming more and more cognizant of the language I’m using to celebrate my student’s success, to highlight the efforts and thinking. These more intentional compliments have also spurred my own reflective thinking, to analyze and articulate exactly what quality I want to praise, rather than lazily tossing out the “so smart!” compliment. It’s an unfamiliar skill to me, and I know I may not succeed right away, but I’m going to give it a shot.