The Growth Mindset and Suzuki Philosophy…
June’s book club pick was Mindset by Carol Dweck, so yes, I am incredibly behind! I always expect summer to move at a slower pace than the rest of the year, but then it moves faster? Does that happen to you? Ok, back to Mindset. I have read so many fantastic (and even life-changing) books with the Plucky Violin Teacher book club this year that it’s hard to pick a favorite. This one is definitely in the top few.
As I read it I was both inspired and very aware of the times in my life that my mindset has held me back. I think this book is a must-read for all teachers and parents.
Every Child Can…
Carol Dweck, psychologist and researcher, states “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life…Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.” This is a recipe for exhaustion, rejection, and defeat.
But we don’t have to live that way! There is another mindset available to us. “In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts…everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
To me, this sounds a lot like a quote from Dr. Suzuki,
Once born we must live with ourselves until the day we die. There arises, then, the inevitable question of how to live. If our ability was not nurtured properly, we have to develop it ourselves. Instead of being defeated by misfortune, we have to make something good of our lives. There is no reason to give up in discouragement; it is possible for every person to improve himself.
Many times I didn’t make the effort I should have because I did not want to change others’ perception of me—I wanted people to continue believing that I was smart (or musically-talented.) Avoiding the very situations and opportunities that would have helped me grow musically and intellectually actually stagnated my growth!
I spent all four years of my undergrad thinking about taking David Baker’s improvisation class (open to all instrumentalists.) Every semester I looked at this class in the course catalog. Every semester I decided to wait until next semester. I was so worried about looking like a fool, that I missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study improvisation with a master. Who is now gone.
What a shame.
We can’t know the future, our students may surprise us!
Do people with this mindset believe the anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and Unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.
Teaching with a Growth Mindset…
While the book is full of wonderful stories and examples of great educators, coaches, athletes, CEO’s, and scientists, I was especially excited to see that Dorothy DeLay was included as an example of a great educator with a growth mindset.
Her mentor and fellow teacher at Juilliard, Ivan Galamian would say, “Oh, he has no ear. Don’t waste your time.” But she would insist on experimenting with different ways of changing that. (How can I do it?) And she usually found a way…
It’s interesting. Both DeLay and Galamian valued talent, but Galamian believed that talent was inborn and DeLay believed that it was a quality that could be acquired. “I think it’s too easy for a teacher to say,’Oh this child wasn’t born with it, so I won’t waste my time.’ Too many teachers hide their own lack of ability behind that statement.’
By the way, if you are interested in learning more about the life of Dorothy DeLay, I highly recommend reading Teaching Genius: Dorothy Delay and the Making of a Musician.
I loved Mindset so much, that I am now listening to it on Audible. This book may have to be a yearly read.
If you want to read more about growth mindset and how it relates to the Suzuki Method, check out this blog post by Alan Duncan.
Since finishing Mindset a few weeks ago, I’ve been trying to praise my students, and my own children, much differently. Rather than, “You’re so smart!” I’ve been trying to remember to say, “I could tell you really thought hard about that and figured it out all by yourself.”
Have you read Mindset? How do you think Suzuki teachers can help their students foster a growth mindset for themselves?
Want more information on growth mindset? Check out this amazing video from peak performance coach, Todd Herman.