Welcome to the 2015–2016 school year! Whether you have just joined our school family or you are a veteran parent of a school-aged child, the start of a new school year is a time filled with excitement. Our focus is to provide each child with new challenges that result in a rewarding school experience. Our commitment is to provide a safe, positive, intellectual learning environment that empowers students to become creative problem solvers, critical thinkers, and inspired learners.
Fostering a Growth Mindset:
We believe that everyone can learn and grow. We nurture a growth mindset in order to strengthen natural curiosity and the tenacity, persistence and grit it takes to accomplish something difficult. People who have a growth mindset seek out challenges. They see failure as a chance to learn from mistakes. They celebrate the success of others because they see an opportunity to learn from the journey of others.
Educational research shows that developing a growth mindset is a strong component to the future success of our students. As parents and teachers, the best way to foster a growth mindset is to praise our students and children for effort and persistence. Focusing on effort rather than intelligence produces high achievers in school and in life.
Dr. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, says those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. “I am smart,” the kids’ reasoning goes; “I don’t need to put out effort.” “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable they can control,” says Dweck. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to failure.”
At Chaparral, we teach our students that there are five things that good students do. These important skills and strategies are the beginning steps in developing a growth mindset:
- Never give up.
- Use positive self-talk.
- Ask questions.
- Learn to be organized.
Ways you can help promote the development of a growth mindset:
1. Have daily learning discussions.
At dinner, in the car or at bedtime take time for both the kids and parents to share the answers to these types of questions:
“What did you learn to day?” (I LOVE this – so much better than “How was your day?”)
“What mistake did you make that taught you something?
“What did you try hard at today?”
“It’s really important says Dweck, that I share what I learned, too.” This models for kids that I learn new things every day, even learning from failures.
When children share, you can reply like this:
“You certainly did get smarter today.”
“I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that math problem until you finally got it right.”
“We all have different learning curves. It may take more time for you to catch on to this and be comfortable with this material, but if you keep at it like this you will.”
“Everyone learns in a different way. Let’s keep trying to find the way that works for you.”
(From Mindset: The new Psychology of Success By Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., Ballentine, 2008)
2. Give feedback on process only.
Praise effort, persistence, strategies, seeking challenges, setting goals, planning, or using creative strategies. Don’t praise personal abilities like being smart, pretty, or artistic. This kind of praise actually can lead to a loss of confidence since kids won’t be smart at everything. They’ll doubt their ability to be good at something that is difficult initially.
3. Know that brains can grow.
Explain to kids how the brain can grow stronger and that intelligence can improve throughout your life. Intelligence is not fixed. It’s changeable. This is called brain plasticity. (Aren’t you so glad!) What’s more, learning CHANGES our brains. (Again, three cheers for brain growth!) Kids need to know this is possible.
4. Encourage risk, failing, and learning from mistakes.
Now is the time to let our kids risk and fail. Failure teaches our kids important life lessons. For one, it’s how they learn resiliency. We often want to prevent our kids from failing, from feeling upset or sad. Don’t. We must let our kids fail now so that they can strengthen their growth mindset muscles.
5. Encourage and model positive self talk.
Finally, I think it’s worth sharing this self-talk chart from Fieldcrest Elementary, http://fieldcrestfalcons.blogspot.ca/2014/01/growth-mindset-talk-it.html. Our positive self-talk is where it all starts to shift and is an extremely important skill. Students need to develop an internal positive monitoring system. This is key to becoming independent and self-motivated.
Your role in our school community:
We want your child to be happy and successful at Chaparral, and as part of a unified community we each play a key role. Your role is to continually show interest in and to support your child’s learning. A child who knows his or her family is interested in and supports school programs and staff will almost always enjoy greater success and will have fewer problems in school. Start this year off right by building a strong relationship with Chaparral and your child’s teacher.
· Introduce yourself. Make a point of introducing yourself to your child’s teacher during this first full month of school. Communicate with your child(ren)’s teachers and staff members to establish a successful home/school connection. Our teachers have classroom websites with their contact information, homework assignments, and useful resources.
· Volunteer. Have a few spare hours? Jump in and become a part of our PFC to plan family events and to support fundraising efforts, volunteer in your child(ren)’s classroom, in our Library, or with our Art Specialist. Your extra help is always appreciated.
· Stay informed. Read every note, handout, or newsletter that comes your way. Come to our PFC meetings and Coffee with the Principal to ask questions and understand the work being done at Chaparral. If something does not make sense, please inquire about it.
· Attend. We plan many family and community events at Chaparral such as our Fall Festival, Walk to School Day, Restaurant Nights, Doughnuts for Dad, Book Fair, and our spring Variety Show. Memories made here will last a lifetime.
· Ask your student(s) specific questions about their time at school. For example, “What was the most interesting thing you did in math or reading today?” or “Tell me about your what you are learning in social studies or science?”
I am excited for the opportunity to work with you and your student to provide a productive and safe learning environment that supports student success. Once again, welcome to Chaparral Elementary School!
I am honored to serve as your principal. Go Cubs!