Mike Piercy, Headmaster at The New Beacon School in Sevenoaks explains how we can encourage a growth mindset culture…
As the exam season approaches, children and parents feel mounting pressure. How can we best prepare children for this pressure, for success and failure (the latter must come at some point!) and develop resilience?
A growth mindset culture – both at home and at school – celebrates achievement while accepting that failure is part of the real world. The proviso is that disappointment must be used as a learning experience, reflecting on the process: was the target truly achievable; could the approach have been better; was it simply the case that someone else was better in a competitive situation? We encourage New Beacon boys (a boys’ school!) to shake off their disappointment, to remove the emotion, to look at the data and to evaluate. Course correction.
What can we do within the very busy school day to reinforce this culture? Windows of peace and reflection. Boys can join any number of optional groups which meet during break-times. This might be: philosophy group, pondering the latest ‘thunk’; RelaxKids, a mindfulness meditation session; reading in the library. Breaks in themselves are important with fresh air, movement and exercise – another key factor for keeping emotional balance. For the older boys the end of week chapel service is an important time for reflection and feeding the spirit. They have no option but to sit in our beautiful chapel and, whatever their religious belief or spiritual persuasion, they reflect, pray, sing, listen to a visiting preacher. A peaceful way to end the week.
As educators and teachers – professionals – it is important we work in tandem with parents. There is a twenty-first century competitive madness which can overtake parents, families, entire roads, towns and communities; a frenzy of tutoring and as many clubs or activities which can be squeezed into waking hours. In school we can see boys who are getting tired, who are over-stretched beyond their comfortable boundaries. We encourage parents to monitor their children’s energy levels and to limit their activities outside school. The temptation is to do more and more which is where balance becomes imbalance.
I tell the boys the story of a successful businessman who travels to an impoverished land where he meets a fisherman. He asks the fisherman about his life and hears that he goes out in his little boat very early in the morning, returns to sell the fish at market, then goes home in the afternoon to be with his wife and children. The businessman suggests he could borrow some money to buy another boat, then a fleet, then a processing factory, then sell out to some conglomerate, then retire.
‘What would I do then?’ asks the fisherman.
‘You could go fishing in the morning and then return home to play with your children or grandchildren.’
The irony of the story is not lost on the boys.
The message we try to give our pupils is one of realistic ambition. At ever younger ages our children face greater pressures: 11+, pre-assessment for senior schools, GCSEs, A Levels, fears about university entry. A school must endeavour to provide children with the emotional strength and strategies to keep perspective in an increasingly challenging world; the resilience to overcome and learn from disappointment.
You are invited to The New Beacon School’s next Open Day events on Friday 22nd March 2019 or Friday 24th May 2019. Find out more HERE.
This is a collaborative post.