By Shannon Anderson, author of Mindset Power: A Kid’s Guide to Growing Better Every Day
Learning to navigate through the last several months has been challenging for most adults. Imagine the thoughts going through the minds of kids. Life is not only very different, but also confusing. There are so many mixed messages and changes of plan. The people kids normally look to for advice aren’t sure of the answers or outcomes.
One thing we can assure kids of is that there are some things we can control and others we cannot. We cannot control the spread of COVID-19, the closing of schools, the various new mandates, or the way others react to these changes.
However, we do have the ability to control our actions and reactions. With practice, we can get really good at intentionally directing our brains to make choices that are healthy, safe, and kind.
You can try this easy exercise with your students. Tell them to close their eyes and imagine they have an apple. Tell them to think about its color, shape, and texture. Then have them imagine they are looking at a banana. Again, have them think about its color, shape, and texture.
Have kids open their eyes and ask if it was easy or hard for them to direct their brains to think about these fruits. Explain that this is just a simple example of the power we have over our thoughts. We choose what to think about. We can change what we think about too.
When it comes to school, we can direct our brains in how we act while we are learning and how we react when things don’t go according to plan. We can choose to have a positive or negative attitude. We can choose to prepare for what could happen and make adjustments as we learn more. We can choose to be kind to those we don’t agree with.
Embracing a growth mindset has never been more important than it is now. Kids need to know that despite setbacks, we can always learn something from what we are going through. We learn from our mistakes, from choices we make, from things that go well, and from things that don’t go so well. The lessons we take away from tough times make us stronger and more resilient when we use them as opportunities to grow. When kids learn to ride a bike, they may fall and get scrapes and bruises. An unexpected rock might cause their tire to turn or a sharp decline might cause them to go faster than they know how to handle.
When kids can think about what happened and prepare for their next ride, they are better equipped to handle those obstacles. With practice, their brains start to automate the muscle memory needed to keep their balance and steer.
When they do fall, they can choose their reactions. Will they cry and throw the bike down or brush off their knees and get back on with even more determination? There are other choices too! They could choose to take a break and try again later or come up with a plan before hopping back on the bike. That is the beauty of learning. We have lots of options to choose from and we learn something from whichever ones we choose.
Kids need to know the power of the choices they make. They also need to learn which choices are safe and helpful. That’s where teachers come in. Modeling and teaching a growth mindset, a positive attitude, and determination can make a huge difference in the development of habits for growing through what we are going through.
Teachers can model the power of a growth mindset through the twists and turns of what school looks like this year. They can encourage students to respond to tough times with positivity and gratitude for the good in each situation. Just by thinking out loud, teachers can share how they are processing and directing their brains to learn and react.
Although these are challenging times, they are also times of many opportunities to teach and build resilience and compassion. Who knows? Students may learn some of the biggest, most important lessons of their lives through these circumstances.
School is going to be different this year. You already know that. You get to choose how to act and react in front of your students, whether in person or virtually.
Ready . . . Set . . . Grow! You’ve got this!
Shannon Anderson has her master’s degree in education and is currently a third-grade teacher, high ability coordinator, and presenter, and a former first-grade teacher, adjunct professor, and literacy coach. She loves spending time with her family, playing with words, teaching kids and adults, running very early in the morning, traveling to new places, and eating ice cream. She also enjoys doing author visits and events. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband, Matt, and their daughters, Emily and Madison.
Free Spirit books by Shannon:
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