During my years as a student as Chatfield Senior High, my school was known for its soccer team. This was the result of an abnormally high percentage of students in my grade who played soccer. At my freshman year, this made getting onto the team very competitive. At the last day of tryouts, I was informed that I was one of the players who would not be making the team. To make matters worse, this was in the fall when there wouldn’t be a male soccer league for me to play on outside of school leagues.
A friend and I were not looking forward to a season without our sport and we realized that if we missed an entire season of soccer, we would be even less likely to make the team next year. We talked to our old coach to see if there was a way for the two of us to practice for that season. We ended up practicing with his girls’ team for a season. Knowing that we needed to grow and progress as soccer players in order to make the team next year, we pushed ourselves hard and focused during practices. This mindset led us to make Chatfield’s soccer team the next season.
At the time, I had not heard the term “growth mindset” and I did not know what to attribute this success to besides hard work. Looking back, I see that I viewed a failure as a reason to try harder, a mental plasticity that I wish I had been able to maintain during other aspects of my high school years. Growth mindset, while certainly pushed by my parents, was not a consistent theme in my high school courses. The courses generally focused on content and not much more. I find it disappointing that this failure in soccer was my biggest push towards growth mindset; it leaves me wondering if I could have achieved more, could still be achieving more, if my school had been a better advocate of growth mindset.
There is a difference between growth mindset and grit. After watching Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED talk on grit, it became apparent to me why I became so frustrated in my high school education while writing the previous portion of this reflection. My school did not teach grit. Teachers may have attempted to demonstrate that grades could be improved, but there was nobody helping me to create long term goals. “Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years” (Duckworth). Outside of sports, the only thing I was determined to work towards for years in high school was my GPA (a clear indicator of a fixed mindset). As an educator, I cannot let this element of my education perpetuate through me and to my students. It is my responsibility to help foster long term goals in my students.