I read Mindset, by Dr. Carol Dweck, awhile back. I have been listening to the unabridged version in the mornings recently and I am still incredibly moved by her work. As I listened today, she used the term, "recovering genius," to describe an adult who was in the process of overcoming a childhood filled with an overabundance of praise and adulation.
This made me think of the other side of the coin, the "recovering ignoramus." Of course we wouldn't ever actually tell a student he was ignorant. But it made me wonder how many kids leave public school with that mindset.
It also made me wonder which upbringing is toughest to overcome??? One of the best reading teachers I have ever seen told me that she struggled with reading as a child and her teachers were sure to let her know it. She overcame the low expectations given by her teachers to become an expert in her profession. I have also watched a teacher who completely knocked my socks off during her rookie year repeat that exact same year several more times without much improvement. She arrived on campus with confidence and told me that she knew she would be good at teaching because she was good at everything she did. She struggled to overcome the success that was seemingly easy for her during her first try, and left within five years.
From Dweck's work, the question is not whether we choose between over-inflating kids' egos or constantly pointing out their deficits. The question is, "How do we talk to kids so that they develop a growth mindset? How do we foster growth mindsets in a classroom of 25+ uniquely individual students? How do we ensure that every child leaves our school believing their efforts will ignite their abilities?