By Laura Hawkins
Two weeks on from #Beaumontteachmeet and I’m still buzzing. I have gained so many things from the event. Not only great ideas on the night but a host of new people to follow on twitter so that the great ideas just keep coming.
When I was asked to present, I struggled to know what to present on. Should I just show a teaching idea, or talk about the coaching work that I’ve done to help colleagues and students? In the end I decided to present on some books which have inspired me in the past 18 months and which have, in some ways, changed all my thinking, both personally and professionally. So my presentation was about three books that have helped me to move a little closer to solving the issue of confidence, or rather lack of confidence. I’m not talking about confidence to socially interact. I know lots of adults and children that would ostensibly appear to be very confident, but who actually lack that deep inner confidence which has held them back from achieving as much as they could in their life. The students who never put their hand up or take part unless they are certain of success. The students who don’t attempt anything so they can’t fail. Not just the real underachievers, but also the ones who do ‘okay’ but never excel.
The first book I talked about was ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed. His book describes the power of practice – the idea that anyone can be good at anything if they practise enough. He certainly has lots of compelling examples in his book from chess champions to marathon runners to budding artists (who all claimed they were not artistic!).
For me, while it made me stop and think, it did not answer the question of motivation. Yes, if we can get students to practise lots they will get good, but how do we get them to practise lots? What made Tiger Woods happy to practise his swing from the age of 3, or motivated David Beckham to kick a ball repeatedly till he mastered his set pieces? However, despite, in my view, not having all the answers, he mentioned repeatedly the work of Carol Dweck, so I busied myself reading ‘Mindset’.
This is it! I drove a few people mad telling them that this was the answer, and that everyone should read it and that we need to make people understand that there are different mindsets. We need to be educating students, parents and teachers about mindsets. Carol Dweck’s basic premise is that there are two mindsets: fixed and growth. Those with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges and see their ‘intelligence’ as static. They see little point in working hard and deflect criticism rather than learning from it. As well as understanding that these two mindsets exist and that education about them is required, I also took from the book the very strong need to only ever praise effort. Also, that it is important to avoid any labels such as ‘gifted and talented’, which seem to imply you are given an ability to do something, rather than having to work for it.
I thought that I had all the answers I needed until somebody recommended that I watch some TED talks by a lady called Brené Brown. She is a university lecturer and researches shame and vulnerability. When I read her book ‘Daring Greatly’, I knew that I had another piece of the puzzle. She talks about the differences between guilt and shame. Guilt – I did something wrong. Shame – I am wrong. She has researched all the different ways that people feel shame and how it holds them back from achieving what they should in life. She talks about the defence mechanisms that we use to stop ourselves dealing with the shame: perfectionism, crazy-busy, numbing (any activity designed to stop us thinking about what we really feel about ourselves), viking or victim – the list continues. The point for me was that in her book she explains a way to build up ‘shame resilience’: ways of talking to students to, again, avoid labels; ways to make people understand what their shame might be and how it is holding them back. She also writes of how we need to deal with the shame so that you can ‘dare greatly’ (a wonderful Roosevelt quote that is at the end of the article). Through educating students and teachers alike about these issues, we can start to give those students more opportunities to get involved in school, rather than standing on the outskirts of school life, never taking part (unless certain of success).
What’s next? Well, I’ve already discovered that lots of schools are already doing great things relating to ‘mindset’. As with all things, I plan to build on what they have done (standing on the shoulders of giants) and develop resources which can be used in schools to educate students about ‘mindset’ and about ‘daring greatly’. I am lucky to have a few colleagues who are keen to work with me on this little project and I plan to continue to follow like-minded people in the twittersphere, to find out what works and what doesn’t. Watch this space.
If your school is doing anything, I’d love to hear from you. As I said at #beaumontteachmeet, this is a work in progress. It is a dream to unlock the door to confident living that holds so many students back.
It is hard to give more than a hint of the content of the books in a 6 minute presentation and also in a short article, but I wholeheartedly recommend 3 great reads…
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
You can follow Laura and her journey into changing mindsets on twitter – @BeaumontCoach