Please take a moment to check in on the class feelings board if you would like.
Carol Dweck has become a well known psychologist in the education realm due to her work on motivation and growth mindset. Growth mindset is the belief that our basic qualities are things we cultivate through effort; as opposed to fixed mindset, the belief that we are born with a fairly set character, intelligence, and creative ability. Cultivating a growth mindset is a powerful tool for increasing student motivation. If students do not expect they can succeed, there is little reason to put in effort.
For a real life example of this, I only need to go as far as my own son. After struggling with art in his formative years, he developed the limiting, fixed mindset that he was 'bad' at art. He entirely gave up on the idea of using art as a creative outlet in his life, and avoided it at all costs. Later on, he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. As part of his evaluation, they tested his motor skills and found them to be rather low, after which he began occupational therapy. Through his initial weeks of therapy, I saw his confidence grow rapidly in his ability to improve through hard work. This example illustrates how a fixed mindset can form - my son was not receiving the support and guidance he needed for his efforts at art to bear fruit. These days, he still doesn't love art, and will possibly never put in the effort to improve his skills...but he no longer believes he is 'bad' at art. He understands that he is choosing not to put in the effort to improve. The results of this mindset shift are evident in his ever burgeoning self confidence.
But growth mindset is only one type of mindset. Mindset is simply the established set of attitudes and beliefs we hold. Another example of mindset, as relates to social emotional learning, is the concept of achievement orientation. Achievement orientation refers to the reasons students adopt while engaged in academic work. A student is said to have 'mastery' orientation if their goal is to develop their own abilities. Conversely, a student has 'performance' orientation if their goal is primarily to demonstrate their ability. Mastery orientation has been positively correlated with academic achievement, adjustment, and well-being.
The above are well researched mindsets for the educational space. I will add on one concept that is important to my view of emotional well being, but not yet well researched, and that is the concept of a 'gratitude mindset.' I would define this as a conscious effort to focus on appreciation of the positives in one's life. While we face major life changes and the uncertainty of how life will move forward, helping our students develop a gratitude mindset may be even more important than focusing on a growth mindset for now.
Optional Teacher Activity: Begin your own gratitude journal, and write in it daily. You can find numerous apps to help you stay on track!
Gratitude Journal: Begin a gratitude journal with your class. You can do this in numerous ways - you can use digital learning tools, ask them to complete one at home in a journal, make it simple or artistic. The practice of writing down what we are grateful for each day helps us to focus our attention on the positives in our life. A positive attitude helps us cope, and makes it easier to avoid excessive worrying.
Here is a link to one on teacherspayteachers but it costs money - fairly simple to make your own.
Gratitude Read-A-Louds: Choose your favorite picture book about gratitude and read it to your students, or record yourself reading it and post it for them. If you can find your book on Storyline Online, it will be read aloud by a celebrity and have beautiful illustrations to accompany it.
One book that works well for this is 'Please, Please the Bees' by Gerald Kelley - you can find it on Storyline read by Rashida Jones. It is an excellent story of gratitude and appreciation.
Everyday Heroes: For very young students, you could use this game to discuss gratitude for our everyday community heroes.
Mastery Orientation: Ask students about a time they did something well. Ask them to write a few sentences about what rewards they received. Ask them to think about what external praise they got for their work, and what internal rewards they felt. Ask them what else makes them feel proud inside themselves.
Growth Mindset Chart: Ask students to list sentences they have said or heard about their ability, and have them classify each as growth or fixed mindset on a chart. Have them convert fixed mindset expressions to growth mindset ones.
Growth Mindset Discussion: Ask students about something they used to struggle with, but now are good at. What are all of the things that helped them to improve?
Next Up: Self Awareness