After nine months in Colorado, my son is headed home. This gap year has served its purpose—Ian is more mature, focused on his future, and ready to start college in the fall. Hallelujah!
The irony of it taking nine, long months for Ian to “grow up” is not lost on me; after all, that’s the length of a school year and a human pregnancy. When I reflect on it, Ian’s growth really is comparable to the growth a fetus or a student’s growth during the school year. Magic happens in those nine months when someone believes in your capacity to grow and change.
So what happens to students when teachers don’t believe in their capacity to grow? What happens when there are low standards and expectations for some of our students? For these students, magic doesn’t happen; monumental growth does not occur. To be sure, these children do not grow as they should because someone lacks belief in their capacity to grow.
One of the hardest pieces of content to teach in the Skillful Teacher course centers around the Bell Curve and teachers’ beliefs about children’s innate, intellectual abilities. The truth is, innate intelligence accounts for only 25% of a child’s ability to be successful. The other 75% has to do with the amount of effort a child puts into their work and a growth, rather than a fixed mindset (Dweck, 2007).
The lesson is simple: when students work hard, they can get smarter. But children cannot learn how to do this on their own. Effort is something we must teach our students. After all, school (and life) are hard work. To make a difference, we must believe in every child’s capacity to learn and grow. That is when monumental growth occurs. I believe, that’s when the magic happens.
So will Ian make it at VCU’s School of Engineering after this monumental year of growth and self-discovery? I think he can. He knows what real effort looks like and has more of a growth mindset after nine months on a cattle ranch. I believe that the next four years will indeed be magical ones for my son, the former cowboy.