Second Order Change requires a collective, lively, and sustainable growth mindset, a phrase being thrown around in educational circles these days. Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, urges readers to engage in some deep metacognition and personal reflection. Through this process, a professional educator carefully considers her unique lens on various hot button topics (am I approaching this problem with a fixed or growth mindset?). In order to make this essential transformation, one has to make the leap from problem identification to proposing and implementing creative solutions. This shift in thinking sounds something like, “Throw me a problem with our school and I will work collaboratively and think creatively about the many possibilities.” Each issue in our struggling systems presents an opportunity in a growth mindset culture.
I yearn to work in a school where the thinking described above prevails, where creative, problem-solving, and bright individuals join together to tackle the greatest challenges: helping all children reach proficiency, igniting a spirit of inquiry in all learners, working closely with parents/communities for the well being of all children, and on and on. While there is no shortage of issues that seem to be rapidly intensifying, there is, however, a shortage of growth mindset individuals in our schools. Without this major cultural shift, many of our attempts to address these challenges are futile. All stakeholders need to be invested in the vision and serve as a passionate and dedicated activist as steps are taken each day to achieve the desired results. This level of dedication and focus can only be achieved when a unified force works toward a common goal.
To say that I am not there, that the above thinking does not reflect my current learning community, would be putting it mildly. While there are pockets of evidence that growth mindset exists and lurks in the halls of our school, periodically giving me a glimmer of hope and encouragement, much of my daily work right now is engulfed by responding to fixed mindset questions, probes, and criticisms. As one of my colleagues so eloquently put it, “It’s like a game of Wack-a-Mole.” It’s time to put the breaks on this hampster wheel model of school change and shift our collective focus to building a culture of reflection, support, and creative solutions.