Category Archives: failure and success

Motivating Students

At a recent elementary school training, a teacher began asking me about strategies for a student who has no motivation.  He refuses to do any work at all and she has tried numerous strategies already.  “I’ve tried everything and nothing works,” she said.  As a school counselor for 20 years, I often heard similar concerns.

I understand the frustrating and difficult job of teaching students in today’s society.  Many students come to the classroom with little preparation in the way of academic skills, positive encouragement or mental preparedness.  However, I often think that we begin at the wrong end of the continuum in our attempts to change behavior.  We begin with rewards and consequences.  We test for deficits and disabilities.  What if instead we began teaching and regularly encouraging a growth mindset?  What if we believed in the effectiveness of a growth mindset ourselves?

What is a growth mindset? Carol Dweck in her groundbreaking work, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success defined it this way: The growth mindset is one where a student believes that their personality, intelligence, ability or skill is changeable and with focused effort and training they can change the outcome.

What if you set the stage every day for a growth mindset and success?

What would it look like?

Begin with  brain facts-What we know about the brain is that thoughts and beliefs that we repeat regularly become a familiar neural pathway.  Neurons that fire together, wire together and become dominant.  This is important to know if you are an educator trying to motivate a student who is determined to spend the day distracted and unfocused rather than learning and growing.  It means that even if a student has already created a negative set of thought patterns that the possibility exists to replace that mindset with a more positive, motivating one that will ensure success not only in the classroom but in everyday life. Teach students that the brain is plastic and changeable.  Teach students that the brain is like a muscle that when used repeatedly grows stronger and stronger in the areas where it is used.

Develop positive mental messages or mindsets: It’s not necessary to be creative or unique.  There are already plenty of inspirational mantras or quotes available to choose from.  Pick something that resonates with you and with your style of teaching. Here are a few examples that illustrate the growth mindset:

  • Every day in every way I’m getting better and better through practice and persistence
  • Love challenges, learn from mistakes, give your best, and always keep growing
  • Learn, grow and help others
  • Great effort and frequent failure is the recipe for great success

Repeat the message regularly:  This isn’t a matter of putting up an inspirational poster that becomes a piece of the woodwork.  Instead, this is a message to begin the day, to end the day and to repeat throughout the day. It is a message to work into academics, physical activities and social occasions. Make it visual. Make it auditory. Have students memorize and repeat it.

Changing fixed mindsets isn’t easy.  We all have stories and messages that we’ve learned and incorporated into the fabric of our lives.  However, helping students develop a mindset that spurs them on to be life long learners and persistent in the face of failure and mistakes will serve them well throughout their lives.

Related Posts:

The growth mindset and success

Creating a growth mindset in kids

Doubtbusters for Kids

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

teaching kids to handle rejection

You don’t make the team

Your friend doesn’t invite you to to the party

Your essay, performance, or art work doesn’t win first place

Rejection is a part of life, for kids a well as for adults.  I bet we all know adults who never learned to handle rejection or obstacles well.  (Think John McEnroe and his famous temper tantrums on the tennis court.)  No one wants to raise a kid with similar outbursts.  So what’s the answer?  Teaching kids to control their mindset and to re-frame failure.

Here are some ideas:

Teach kids the power of not yet— When a child doesn’t win the trophy or make the team, don’t gloss over it and don’t get them a participation trophy so they fit in.  Instead teach kids that just because they didn’t make it this time there is always a chance to make it next time.  Teach them that persistence and effort make a difference.

Teach kids to be a learner, not a loser--Help kids understand that every failure has the seeds for growth in it.  An evaluated experience makes for an improved and better performance next time.  Teach them to ask:  What have I learned that I can do differently next time?

Teach kids positive self-talk–Often kids feel rejected, worthless and inadequate in the face of failure.  Teach them to identity the stories or messages they are telling themselves, to challenge those messages and replace them with a positive statement.  Instead of, “I always lose,” they can say “I’ll work hard and do better next time.”

Teach kids how to measure progress–Often we measure progress from how far we are from the goal; “I didn’t make a 100 on my test.”  Instead, teach them to measure progress from how far they are from where they started;  “On my last test, I made a C.  On this test I made a B.”

Teach kids that rejection can sometimes be redirection–And sometimes that is a good thing.  We aren’t meant to win at everything and sometimes it can be a sign that our strengths and talents lay in another area.  Evaluating whether or not to continue along the same path is part of the message that rejection can clarify.

 

Related posts:

The power of not yet in changing behavior

Four steps to change failure to success

Teach kids problem solving skills

 New!!  

Wyatt the Wonder Dog

Learns about Teamwork

Camping with his Boy Scout Troop is exciting and fun… until Max takes a serious fall while hiking.  When Wyatt and the rest of the Scouts use their emergency training to get Max safely out of the woods, they learn the value of teamwork and the power of community to achieve big goals.

Wyatt Learns about Teamwork

four steps to change failure into success

I’ve written a lot of posts on how to handle failure.  There are several of reasons for this.   As a kid, I don’t know that anyone ever helped me understand the role that failure plays in growing, improving and becoming your best self. I just figured out on my own that failure was something to be avoided at all costs and that misguided perception would rule my life until well into recent years.

As a school counselor for 20 years, I also spent a lot of time consoling kids who felt devastated when life didn’t go as they planned.  They failed a test. Their work didn’t win the prize.  They weren’t chosen for the team or club.  I want to help kids learn to handle failure because it so often involves learning to handle losing, making mistakes and criticism. Each one of these experiences can either provide needed helpful information for our future or it can crush our spirit.  It is all in how we perceive the information as well as how it is delivered.

Most of the time when someone feels crushed by failure, the problem is the message or the story that the individual is telling themselves about the situation.  This is obviously true for adults as well as kids so the steps that I’m going to suggest below might be something that you will find helpful in your own life as well as kids that you teach, parent or counsel.   Here’s the secret sauce for turning failure into research and development.

  • Become aware of the message or story that you are telling yourself or repeating in your brain.  Here are some examples that I’ve heard:
    • How could I be so stupid?
    • I’m a loser and now everyone will know
    • What’s the point of trying?  I can’t do anything right.
  • Change the message to change the feeling:
    • It’s okay to make mistakes.  That’s how I learn.
    • I’m not a loser, I’m a learner.  Everyone makes mistakes and those who don’t understand don’t need to be in my circle of friends.
    • I haven’t learned the best way to succeed yet.  There are lessons to be learned from this experience.
  • Ask the question:
    • What have I learned from this experience?
    • How can I apply what I have learned?
    • Where is the opportunity in this experience?
  • Set a new goal to apply what you have learned
    • Create a new goal with a timeline- I will study differently for the next test by reviewing the material nightly.
    • Create an opportunity for constructive feedback:  I will ask my teacher for suggestions for the best way to learn the material.
    • Evaluate how the action steps are working:  I will take a practice test before the final exam.

Related posts:

What if failure is really a gift?

The growth mindset and success

Teach girls bravery not perfection

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

Lesson Plan on Winning/Failure on Teachers Pay Teachers