Carol Dweck, the author of “Mindset,” discusses two different states of being we humans tend towards: fixed mindset and growth mindset.
One of our school programs, “I Can: The Grit snd Growth Mindset Show,” uses Dweck’s findings to teach upper elementary and, now, middle schoolers about these terms and how understanding and applying them can change their lives.
Speaking honestly (when don’t I), doing shows for a middle school audience in a racially mixed part of Long Island scared me. I envisioned being laughed at or ignored because I rightly remember what it was like to be that age. For the most part, we were hopped up on hormones, often disrespectful, and more concerned about getting laughs from our peers than engaging with well-meaning assembly providers.
To combat this situation, we decided to be 100% ourselves. We spoke about how the pandemic affected our lives and forced us to get creative. We talked about how we used Grit snd Growth Mindset and set off on a journey to remake ourselves.
We were slated to do three shows for 6th, 7th and then 8th graders in that order. We were told that each grade was more challenging than the next. Gulp.
On the first day, the school screwed up and we had 225 6th graders snd 100 7th graders. They filled the chairs and the bleachers on either side of a huge gym. in addition, they arrived 10 minutes late for a 35 minute show. Yikes.
Beth and I are veteran performers and we’ve faced about every kind of difficult situation there is in a school over our 30 year career. And now our list of experiences includes hustling through a show with a large and somewhat sleepy audience of middle schoolers. in other words, we survived.
The second show went more smoothly than the first, but it still felt like they didn’t want to hear it and it felt like we weren’t connecting. We walked away with this thought, “We are not reaching them…yet.”
And this is the whole point of the show. We fail ourselves to success. If we’re smart, we ask for help and we recognize that effort are more important than results.
On the way to todays last gig, we made some changes including something that I saw as crucial: changing our tone. Instead of preaching or pushing our agenda, we relaxed and had fun. We stopped wanting them to like or respond to us and it worded wonders. We just did our best and it was a 100% better BECAUSE we let go of the results.
The 8th graders were respectful and relaxed, in part, because we respected ourselves (and them) and came to the school relaxed. Big lesson learned!
We now know that we can thrive under difficult, seemingly impossible situations. Of course, we knew that already, but it’s always possible to forget. Such is life.