A Foundation for Motivation

Assistant Principal
Rockford High School

Motivating students, increasing self-esteem, and assisting in the building of a foundation for successful individuals are endeavors, or achievements, I take pride in as a professional and as a parent. Striving to always be better, I am continuously looking for ways to improve who I am and what I am doing for students and my children alike.

My constant pursuit led me to a book I’ve completed for the second time. The book is titled “Mindset,” and the main idea presented is to acknowledge the effort your students and children put into something rather than stating how good, how smart, how talented they may be. Author Carol Dweck has devoted her career to the psychology behind the success of individuals. Focusing on how an individual can grow what they are naturally good at is at the forefront of her research. Her ideas challenged me to look at how I receive feedback/constructive criticism, how I give it, and how I can further benefit from feedback and results in general.

Dweck provides examples to the reader of different individuals who have characterized both forms of mindset. John McEnroe is a prime example of someone who embodies the fixed mindset. When things were going well on the court, he and his talents were responsible for his success, but when he was losing it was his opponent’s fault, the referee’s fault, the weather conditions, the fans, or his trainer. The bottom line is that it was never his fault that he wasn’t succeeding.

On the other end of the spectrum is Jackie Joyner Kersee. She is one of the most celebrated Olympic athletes in having earned a total of six Olympic medals in three different events, three of which were gold, one silver, and two bronze. Of these accomplishments, personally she is most proud of her bronze medal earned at the age 34 while competing in the long jump competition. More work went into earning that bronze medal than any of those she had previously won. This exemplifies the growth mindset.

A brief overview of the book “Mindset” can be found at and a portion of it has been provided below:

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong… In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

This simple concept shows that you can and should always grow your natural abilities and has had a significant impact on how my wife and I interact with our children. In the evening when my wife and I now have the opportunity to sit down with them, quite often we ask two questions: “What was the best part of the day?” and “What could you do differently tomorrow?”

These two simple questions work on several levels. First, the questions are open ended, so they force more than a single-word response. Second, the questions allow our children the opportunity to reflect on their actions, and if they didn’t like the outcome of something that occurred, they may think about what can be done differently. Finally, the questions open up the avenue of communication with our children. We are fortunate that our children are seven and three years of age; it is our hope that we’ve established a foundation that will serve us and them for years to come.

As a community, we have high expectations for the achievements of our school and students. This is one of the many elements I value within our community. Professionally and personally, I am surrounded by competitive individuals who are aligned with the approach of a “growth” mindset.

Dweck’s concept of the growth mindset is what assists us in meeting the challenges which leads to our districts’ and more importantly students’ success.

I encourage you to take on the task of working toward the growth mindset as it has been proven that it cannot only benefit you, but those who surround you. Identifying what you are naturally good at and identifying those items in which you struggle with is the first step to being a better person. Once you better understand who you are, you will be able to grow from there, with “growth” being the key.

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