The “From the Desk Of” series is my regular email to the Valley Torah High School community.
This week as I returned from the 2015 North American Jewish Day School Conference and I was asked by one of my teachers what my tolerance for change was? This question came after I was discussing some of the great things I learned at the conference, what I presented and how much of it fit into some of the great growth and growth plans we have here at VTHS. It was asked because as a team we are having growing pains and the teacher was wondering how much “pain” I could handle. As I discussed the other week, change is exhausting even when we are in agreement that it is needed. So, here is my answer.
I have no tolerance for change. Why? Because it is not something I feel I need to tolerate or something I find “painful. It is something I embrace, get excited about and deeply understand that it takes time and is not without its frustrations and setbacks. I also believe strongly that It is necessary and, more importantly, possible no matter how stuck the system you are in seems to be. The bottom line is that when it comes to school change, I work hard at having a growth mindset so that I don’t say we can never get there, but rather we have not gotten there yet.
Growth Mindset is based on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck and her research chronicled in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. To simplify her research to its most digestible understanding is that learners can be broken into two mindsets; fixed and growth. Fixed mindset individuals believe that a basic quality like intelligence is a fixed trait and can’t change. Growth mindset individuals know that basic traits like intelligence can be developed through hard work and it is in their control to change. Unfortunately, most people tend to be of a fixed mindset. However, Dr. Dweck’s research points to the fact that human capacity for growth is not fixed and that teaching a growth mindset to students creates motivation and productivity among fixed students that did not exist prior.
Here is an illustration of Growth Mindsets:
Recently Rabbi Stulberger, Rabbi Felt and I attended the 4th annual BJE day school and yeshiva administrators’ retreat and the keynote speaker Dr. John D’Auria presented on Growth Mindsets. At the end of his presentation, he illustrated a very powerful idea that should have been obvious to me. The culture of the students is directly influenced by the culture of the teachers which is directly influenced by the culture of the administration. However, most schools, as he pointed out, are fragmented and in order to cultivate a culture of innovation it must become defragmented. This is clear to me being a new Principal and I work very hard with my team to collaborate on vision and change, but it is not without its challenges. One major challenge is, as it is with all schools, simply that often there is a fixed belief that change is not possible. I do worry that if this remains true it can trickle down to the students, which is catastrophic to their learning. Having any of our students think that they can’t grow, overcome and change would be a disaster in any school. So, while we must teach our students that they are always capable, we as educators need to realize that as well.
Simply put, when it comes to change it is not that we can’t get there, but rather we are not there yet.
Enjoy a TED talk on the power of yet and growth mindsets by Dr. Carol Dweck