Whether we think we can or we can’t, we are probably right. This is the message that has stuck with me since 7th grade. It originated from the poem “The Man Who Thinks He Can,” which my 7th-grade wrestling coach read to us before every match. It resonated with me then as a young boy struggling with himself and the world, and it resonates with me now as an old man facing many of the same struggles–indeed, life doesn’t change; we just get older. But. This is different. It is no longer about an uncertain, awkward, self-conscious boy trying to avoid humiliation on the mat; it is about a man bearing the responsibility of helping young people find themselves and their ways in the world. And so, I seek to give what was given to me so long ago, the gift of “can” through attempting to instill in my students the power of a growth mindset.
This week in 211 I will immerse my kids in the idea of a growth mindset, setting the stage for their roles as learners in the days to come. I have already taken the fear of failing out of the equation by gifting an A, a move which may prompt some to ask, then, what’s the point? Fair enough. A look at the graphic above would suggest that by doing so I have already eliminated the first three components to learning: challenges, obstacles, and effort by taking grades off the table. So, yeah, what is the point?
This. Project 180, by taking grades off the table, is not making learning easier; it is attempting to make it more relevant, more meaningful, more personal. The kids are no longer chasing a grade; they are building themselves. I don’t believe I need grades to present challenges, to lay down obstacles, to elicit effort. I will provide these opportunities every day in 211. Of course, I will have to be ever mindful of the types of tasks I create because kids now truly have a choice. I am betting on commitment as a better motivator than compliance. “Failure” is still an option. But now instead of failing the class, they can only fail themselves. I want it to be about them. It has to be about them. I want them to succeed not in search of a grade but as a means to better themselves. I want them to be selfish in this. I am gambling on it. In fact, I have placed my whole professional farm in the pot.
Though, in some respects, the stakes are high, my goal through Project 180 is to make the stakes more real. For each kid. It is my earnest hope that each and every kid sees this year’s experience in 211 as a journey to growth, a journey not without challenges, obstacles, or effort, a journey that helps them discover power of “can.” Sometimes learning is about more than content; sometimes learning is about attitude, and even if it doesn’t matter all the time, I have come to learn, in life, attitude matters most of the time. This week we will begin building our growth mindset attitudes. The journey begins.
Happy Tuesday, all. Thank you for tuning in and offering your support. Together, we CAN change the world. Now, that’s the attitude.