The power of “not yet” has been shown to aid students in progress and effort rather than assigning a big, ugly ‘F’ to their work if it doesn’t meet standards. The same can be said about who I am as a teacher-writer. I have often struggled with new areas and genres of writing because I know that what I start with isn’t my best work and it often doesn’t receive the grades I hold myself to. That’s the problem—I’m trying to get an ‘A’ rather than attempting to open my mind and understand that what I do won’t be perfect the first time. I find myself often attempting to master a genre overnight, and when I can’t, I feel myself shutting down.
The terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset” are deeply rooted in my history as a writer as well. In the writing I do outside of an academic setting, much of it is similar, generally in style and genre, instead of new and challenging. It is my fixed mindset that keeps me within these constraints, as I rarely go outside of my comfort zone in the fear and frustration that I may fail. Unless I am pushed by a class to embrace something new, I remain in my comfortable bubble of what is familiar to me and what I am able to do well. Even when I am pushed into something new, I often forget to take on a growth mindset and I find myself frustrated and struggling to improve myself. It is my focus on the grade that holds me back from the potential to grow and prove to myself that I can embrace something that was once foreign to me.
However, as important as it is to encourage children to grow and understand that it is okay to be in a place that hasn’t fully encapsulated what is necessary to pass, I don’t think that we should be completely throwing grades and scores into the wind. Yes, we must encourage students to embrace a problem and understand that what we do isn’t always going to come to us naturally at first, but grades do matter. It is our way of assessing a students progress and ultimately, assessment matters.
Overall, it is important to balance encouragement with assessment, and understanding how intertwined they really are.