Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.
Over the course of the school year, our district has focused on learning about the Growth Mindset and how to better focus on process rather than outcome.
At the heart of the Growth Mindset is the belief that we learn best when we are forced to struggle with a concept. We often see examples of this in just about every industry, from sports to business to education. We find individuals who did not have the greatest talent but through hard work, practice, and struggle were able to excel in their chosen field. In fact, I would go so far as to assume that we all have our own story of struggle that ended in success. As Americans we root for the underdog and love to see victory after a hard-fought battle.
Personally, I would call myself a “frequent struggler,” and I know from experience that hard work and perseverance can help overcome most adversity. I have also learned that success can be defined in a variety of ways. In middle and high school, I was on the wrestling team. I’m not what you’d call a natural athlete, and I often struggled on the mat. However, I had a wonderful coach who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He knew that while I might never be a state champion, I could rally and motivate my teammates. He helped me identify and hone this leadership talent, which set the foundation of what would be an extensive career leading and cultivating leadership in others. While some would call me a failure as a wrestler, I know that I achieved so much more than just racking up pins.
Given the fact that most people have had to struggle at some point to find success, coupled with the fact we recognize that struggling causes the greatest amount of growth, I am baffled by how quickly we label kids as “struggling students.” We will often flag kids as “not math people” or “slow readers” or “reluctant learners” during their periods of greatest struggle. We need to remind ourselves that if we use such a narrow definition of “struggling student,” we could all be labeled as struggling. Rather than labeling, we need to be supporting and encouraging. It is through this process of struggle that resilience is built and students flourish into competent adults.
I’d like to suggest that we should be wearing the “struggling student” label as a badge of honor. Because the true value of learning is found within the struggle, I propose that we strike the words “struggling student” from our vernacular and instead adopt the term “striving students.” By looking at the struggle as striving to learn or striving for greatness, we can redefine learning for our students.