The Growth Mindset

Khan Selfie

Sal Khan (creator of Khan Academy) agreed to take a selfie with me.

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.
~Dale Carnegie

This week, I had the pleasure of learning from Sal Khan, the creator of Khan Academy.  Khan Academy is a learning platform that hosts educational videos on every academic subject under the sun.  The motto of Khan Academy is You Can Learn Anything, and its tag line is For free. For everyone. Forever.  Sal Khan is in his late 30s, and he created math videos in an effort to help his cousin pass her algebra course.  Sal’s cousin began to share the videos with her friends who saw the benefit of this video tutoring format, and thus Khan Academy was born.  While I find the background story of Khan Academy interesting, it was Sal’s message of grit, perseverance, and determination that was truly inspiring.

Though a highly intelligent individual, Sal attributes his success to his attitude, not his brain.  He attributes his success to his growth mindset. This idea of a growth mindset isn’t new; in fact, the term has been around for over 30 years.  Those who believe in the growth mindset know that intelligence isn’t fixed; with practice, an individual can learn anything.  Essentially, in the growth mindset, we believe that the brain is a muscle that grows stronger the more you work it.  As parents and teachers, it is our goal to teach our kids the foundational skills they need, as well as  those intangible, reflective skills that all successful individuals possess.  We want our kids to use their mistakes and failures as opportunities to make adjustments and try again. This will help them to be more successful.

In Pleasantdale, we strive to help our students internalize the importance of perseverance and a growth mindset.  Our teachers set the bar high for our students and then give them the support they need to achieve their goals.  We also strive to create an environment where students can take appropriate risks and fail in a safe way.  These are the types of experiences that will serve our students well as they leave the nest and become successful, independent adults.  While we all want our kids to be successful, our goal is not to only produce successful 12 year olds, but to produce successful 35 year olds.  As a learning community, we want to partner with you to ensure that kids have the experiences that allow them to persevere in the face of struggle.  This is the attitude that colleges and employers are looking for.  Together, we will help our kids to get there.

At the end of Sal Khan’s presentation, he shared this video which sums up the growth mindset well.  The best line in the video is, “Failing is just another word for growing.”  As we move Pleasantdale from good to great, we will continue to find ways to imbed the growth mindset in all we do.

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6 comments on “The Growth Mindset
  1. Tracy says:

    LOVE this post Dave and again, miss you! Hope all is well – looks like it is!

  2. Tracy says:

    LOVE this article Dave! Again, miss you here tons – looks like things are going really well for you – couldn’t be happier for you and Pleasantdale!

    • David says:

      Thanks, Tracy! I miss my Wilmette family, but am loving my work in Pleasantdale. The work is challenging and rewarding and I am learning so much. I hope all is well with you, Joe, and the boys!

  3. Hiram says:

    “Failing is just another word for growing.” This is an absolute cop-out and over-generalization. Some failure truly is part of the growth process and comes when a hill is truly too steep to climb because the climber isn’t yet fit enough to summit. Other failure is really the direct result of a lack of effort, motivation, or desire to succeed.

    Sorting these two starting points is critical to addressing failure and getting to success. How do you propose that we reward earnest effort that doesn’t succeed vs. sparking motivation in those who are ready, willing, or even able to learn?

  4. Theresa says:

    The growth mindset is just that, a belief that I can learn and my brain can grow with effort. I would love to see Carol Dwecks growth mindset program implemented in the pleasantdale school system.

    • David says:

      Thank you Theresa, we are currently working with staff on this concept and will be rolling it out system wide (students and parents) very soon.

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