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Signs of progress?

September 5, 2010

Here’s a recent email exchange with a fixed mindset student.

———-
From: Fixed mindset student
Date: Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 2:37 PM
To: Mr. B

Mr. B,
I know that I need to complete my test corrections, and since I don’t understand all of the work I was going to go to backwork Tuesday to do it. However, the actor from The Office is coming that day during backwork. Is there any way I can come either during club period or during class to complete the test corrections? If not I will come during Wednesday backwork if that is ok.
-Student

>>> Teacher 09/05/10 11:04 AM >>>

———-
From: Teacher
Date: Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 2:42 PM
To: Fixed mindset student

Student,
I don’t think we have club period, but you can take more time to finish the corrections. If you ask me questions via email, I think you can probably find you can get every question you have answered. I have a scan of your test, so I can see exactly what you did. Just write out a lit of questions as you look over your test.
-Mr. B

On Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 2:39 PM, Teacher wrote:

———-
From: Fixed mindset student
Date: Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 2:47 PM
To: john.B98@gmail.com

Ok thanks. I will be sure to email you once I start working on test corrections. (emphasis mine)

This was where I just flipped out. The student hadn’t even started working on corrections? ERRAGH!

So I collected myself and wrote this response:

>>> Teacher 09/05/10 2:42 PM >>>

———-
From: Teacher
Date: Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 3:00 PM
To: Fixed mindset student

Student,
Please do not take this the wrong way, but I want to take an opportunity to help push you out of the fixed mindset.

From your emails, this is what I infer:

  • You have not started corrections yet. You’ve had the test for nearly a week. You are avoiding them, possibly because you think they’ll be hard, you have too much work, or something else.
  • You want a good grade (everyone does). This is why you do corrections, not because you really want to figure out these subtle physics understandings (if that were the case, you would have already started).
  • You also want to see Kevin from the office (everone does—and I think everyone should go to this, it’s going to be great). But you don’t want to seem like a slacker, and skip backwork.
  • Rather than buckle down and do the corrections and come up with a question, you send me an email saying you’d like to set up a time with me to go over corrections you haven’t even looked yet, possibly thinking it would be easier just to sit down in backwork and ask questions until I gave you the answers (this will not happen).
  • This is not the way you should work, and if any of these you might still be stuck in the fixed mindset. As we’ve said, almost everyone is.

I’m not mad, but I think sending a teacher an email to schedule try to schedule a special time to meet (or even propose that we do corrections in class, when they are meant to be done on your own), does not show much devotion to the intellectual process of learning, and doesn’t really bode well for you taking a deep interest in what you are learning, escaping the fixed mindset, greatly reducing your stress and changing the world.

Maybe I’m wrong, or I completely misinterpreted your emails. If so, let me know.

Again, I’m not mad, but I would like you to think about how your emails look from my end.

-Mr. B

———-
From: Fixed mindset student
Date: Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 3:32 PM
To: john.B98@gmail.com

Mr. B,
I think you are probably right. I am going to attempt the corrections
now, and try to increase my understanding.

>>> Teacher 09/05/10 3:00 PM >>>

———-
From: Teacher
Date: Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 3:35 PM
To: Fixed mindset student

Thanks Student. That took a great amount of courage to admit. Recognizing the fixed mindset is really the first (and biggest) step on charting your own less stressful, more fulfilling path to success. Let me know how I can help.
-Mr. B

Maybe I’m breaking through? I’m definitely going to start calling students out on their fixed mindset behaviors more.

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