Sunday, 10 May 2015

Why I will try to never use the word potential again.

When you Google the words "potential growth mindset" together, up comes a list of links to all sorts of videos and books encouraging you to reach your potential using a Growth Mindset. The guru herself, Carol Dweck, titled her book Mindset: How You Can Fill Your Potential.

Mary Cay Ricci's book, Mindset in the Classroom sends a different message about the word potential. I don't know how many times I have used the word when writing school reports or during conversations with parents or students themselves, but from now on I will try never to use the word again.

After reading the sub-chapter on the Role of Potential, it seems that the word itself suggests a endpoint. Once you have reached the endpoint, there is no further. Ricci uses the example of Michael Phelps. Once he'd achieved his tenth Olympic Gold Medal in 2008, many thought he had reached his potential. Of course, he went on to shatter that in 2012 with another 8 Gold Medals.

As Educators, I think we sometimes hinder further learning when we see 'potential' has been reached. A child may have succeeded at a learning intention, so we tick that box and move onto the next, rather than allowing them to further grow in that area. 

The system itself often creates a barrier to learning and pushing potential. I believe I experienced that myself, back in the day, as a first year NCEA student. I was a reasonably able student with potential to gain Excellences, however, I didn't feel the need to push myself any harder because I gained no extra credit for it. (I can see now how it would have paid off - but that didn't mean anything to me as a teenager.)

I see part of my job as teaching students to be successful and perform to their best by having a Growth Mindset. I will be telling them to think beyond their potential - you never know unless you try!

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