Stories from our schools – The growth mindset and perseverance

When we started our search for stories from our schools, we weren’t really sure what to expect. Today, as the stories continue to pour in, it’s immensely gratifying to see some examples of the visible impact that some our early theories are having!

One of the three pillars of our curriculum is the emphasis on skills versus content. And right from the beginning, we’ve been arguing that the kinds of skills a child learns matters – not just literacy and math (these are important too) but other socio-emotional skills like grit, or perseverance. We argued that these skills are just as important to a child’s success as the other, more academic skills.  Carol Dweck, in Mindset: The new psychology of Success, articulates what modern psychology now knows is true – an individual is limited only by their mindset, and this mindset to succeed (a growth mindset) can be learnt. This growth mindset, which leads to perseverance is something that can be learnt and developed from the early years of a child’s life.

A perfect example of this is the story I heard at our Kondhwa school.

On a recent visit to Kondhwa, the teacher – Nasim- points out Vansh, a  3 year old student in the nursery section. Vansh has, for 2 days, been playing with the same set of puzzle blocks. Nasim tells me that he has probably tried to do this over 20 times! As I watch, he tries to fit the pieces together, ends up with one piece out of line, and then pulls them apart, to start all over again. Nasim encourages him gently, “Try again Vansh. Take your time. It’s OK”, and he tries again, determined to conquer this puzzle. He hasn’t yet succeeded in completing the puzzle, when I turn to leave.
What would the typical reaction to an incident like this be? As you read this, I can sense your unease. Don’t worry, it’s normal. It is normal for most teachers and parents to wonder why Vansh wasn’t able to put together (what they regard as) a relatively simple puzzle. It’s normal for parents to get agitated and point out the right way to put the pieces together, in an effort to ‘teach him’. It is normal for most teachers to get Vansh to do it the right way multiple times so he can put this particular puzzle piece together anytime they ask him to. But to do that, is to miss the point altogether!

At Wunderbar Kids, how do we view this incident?

With joy. Joy that Vansh is demonstrating the skill of Perseverance, a skill we know to be the number one indicator of success in a persons life.

At Wunderbar Kids, what action do we take?

We encourage. We encourage Vansh to try and fail. In fact, we encourage him to try and fail multiple times, so Vansh can learn that eventually he will succeed at whatever he puts his mind to. He learns that patience, a will to learn and comfort with failure are crucial ingredients to success.

The developments of these traits in Vansh is not just a happy accident. It leads to his growth mindset – the understanding that all ‘doing’ is a form of ‘learning’ and that the right attitude is to embrace it.

And now, the big one. How is this an indicator of systemic success for us?

1. Our Development Diary has a section that actually records the levels of perseverance a child displays – a clear indicator that our system has been built (and is continually evolving) to handle all the right metrics.

2. Nasim, Vansh’s teacher, has shown all the appropriate responses. She has observed, inferred, taken action, and recorded feedback – a clear indicator that our teacher training systems are working to scale.

3. And finally, our Development Diary goes home to Vansh’s parents. Vansh’s parents appreciate and understand that Vansh is learning perseverance, and not ‘failing at a puzzle’, a distinction that we believe is only evident to parents within the Wunderbar Kids community, and a clear indicator that our parent engagement and product support lines are working well.

We’re setting up Vansh to develop the mindset to learn. He learns that the attitude to failure is not dejection, but a fresh approach. He learns that there is no shame in trying and failing. He learns and grows. And we’re now doing that, not just for Vansh, but for all the other children in our system

If this isn’t what will help children succeed, then what is?