The Power of Yet

Friday, 19 Mar 2021

“A simple way to start changing to a growth mindset, is by the use of a little word, yet. In essence the word means a realization that some things are worth waiting for, and those things take work. It’s not always easy, but the power of this small word allows for success. Changing your words can help students begin to make the change from a fixed to a growth mindset.”Saying ‘not yet’ instead of saying ‘you failed’ is a much better way to show children that even if they have difficulties overcoming something now, the time will come when they succeed if they continue tackling the obstacle from different angles. The use of ‘yet’ shows that there is a learning curve, and points to the process, not the outcome. This also tells the children that they aren’t being taught to learn simply for grades, but for their future and it encourages them to dream big and think about what they want to do with their lives, instead of on focusing only on what they are currently achieving at school. (Carol Dweck)

Dweck, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University, advocates that a growth mindset is developed through praise, but not the usual after-the -fact praise which focuses on outcomes, but the praise that focuses on the process of learning. We should praise students for the strategies they used and the entire process that leads to outcomes. In short, we praise the process, not the abilities. If we only focus on praising, children begin to believe that if they try hard enough, they will succeed no matter their strategies. In fact, this leads them to repeat the same ineffective strategies over and over again. When we praise the effort around the process or strategies used, it teaches the children the need to change their strategies in order to solve the problem.

Dweck also suggests that failure leads to learning. If something doesn’t work, we can ask, “What is this teaching us? What can we try instead?” This type of questioning encourages children to find an alternate way to achieve success. It tells children that we believe they can do better, supporting a shift in mindset.

What if instead of saying “I can’t do this”, you said “I can’t do this yet”?What if instead of saying “I’m not good at this”, you said “I’m not good at this yet”?What if instead of saying “I don’t understand this”, you said “I don’t understand this yet”?What if instead of saying “It doesn’t work”, you said “It doesn’t work yet”? What if instead of saying “this doesn’t make sense”, you said “this doesn’t make sense yet”?
At the end of the school day try asking your child some of the following growth mindset questions:

What did you do today that made you think hard?What new strategies did you try?What mistakes did you make that taught you something?What did you try today that was hard?

Some Practical Advice

Recognize that we are all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets.
Use appropriate language to praise.
I know you have the ability, so I have set the bar high.
As you learn this, mistakes are expected. Your mistakes help me support you.
When you feel math is hard, that’s your brain growing!
What step can you try next?
Of course it’s tough. If it were easy, would you be learning anything from it?
You worked hard on that. Looks like that paid off!
Allow students to reflect on their performance.
Give 2 words that describe how you feel about your achievement on this assessment/project/assignment.
Do you think your grade matches your effort level? Why/why not?
If you are not challenged, you do not make mistakes. If you do not make mistakes, you do not grow.

Below are a list of books which will support your discussions at home around developing a Growth Mindset:

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett

The main character in this story never makes mistakes, until one day she does! She learns that life is more fun when you learn to enjoy the process and learn from your mistakes.

What Do You Do With a Problem? By Kobi Yamada

The main character in this story avoids a persistent problem, however it only seems to get bigger. When he finally finds the courage to face the problem he learns that the problem is not what it first appeared, and discovers something amazing in the process.

Beautiful Oops! By Barney Saltzberg

Hooray for mistakes! Children who read this book will discover that a mistake is an opportunity for creativity, and sometimes the most beautiful things in life are unexpected. 

I Can’t Do That, YET By Esther Pia Cordova 

The main character in this story doesn’t believe in herself, and often says “I can’t do that”. When she learns to say “I can’t do that YET”, her whole world changes. 

Giraffes Can’t Dance By Giles Andreae

All of the animals tell Giraffe that he can’t possibly dance, until a small friend shows him how to find his own tune.

Developing a growth mindset early on will help children become more confident, resilient, empowered, and not afraid to fail. Confident children are willing to put forth more effort, and try hard to accomplish their goals. There is no time like today to start making changes in the way we talk, think, and feel about our abilities.

Mrs Natalie Adler
Assistant Principal Teaching & Learning: Junior