This year Spiritridge is expanding students’ knowledge and skillsets with a new concept, growth mindset.

“Growth mindset means not giving up and persistence.” said third grader William Wang.  “When you say ‘I can’t do this,’ it’s not really good and you’ll probably never know how to do it.  But if you say I can do this and work hard on it you probably can do it better.”

Spiritridge Principal Scott Hetherington is leading the schoolwide focus on growth mindset, which is part of the school’s three-year school improvement plan.

“Last year we learned how to improve student-teacher relationships and student-student relationships so that every student felt a sense of belonging at Spiritridge,” said Hetherington.  “Along with sense of belonging and relationship building we began to encounter this concept of growth mindset and the idea that overcoming the doubts you have that ‘I’m not good at this,’ or ‘I’m not good at that,’ to complete those statements with the word yet.”

Echoing Hetherington, third grader Ananya Ray said, “growth mindset is basically using the power of yet, which is something that when you say a negative statement you add ‘yet’ to that negative statement, like ‘I can’t do this’ you add yet to that and say ‘I can’t do this yet.’”

Throughout the year the school is focusing on four essential questions around growth mindset: What is growth mindset?  How does my brain grow?  How can I learn from failure?  How can I have growth mindset in my personal life?

Growth Mindset Board

The staff uses professional development time to better understand the concept and develop growth mindset curriculum.  At the beginning of the year staff created and administered a pre-assessment for students to determine growth mindset levels, and students will take the assessment again at the end of the year for teachers to determine student progress.

To introduce and teach the concept of growth mindset to students, third grade teacher Sally Lambert, said she starts by first identifying what type of mindset students currently have.  She’s found that many third grade students have a fixed mindset, in the sense that they have already determined things they are good at, and areas in which they struggle.  Lambert’s class talks about the difference of growth mindset and fixed mindset and then she works to shift their thoughts and words from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Joanne Chae is a student in Lambert’s class and she sees her brain as a muscle.  “You have to keep on working, keep on trying to make it actually work,” said Chae.  “If your brain is just laying around on the couch then you have a fixed mindset and it’ll never grow and get the strength it needs.”

Hetherington said he’s heard fifth graders talk about growth mindset as: if you just try something once your brain creates one pathway and it dead ends.  But if you keep trying it creates alternative roadmaps, like a GPS, with different ways to get to your destination.  If you encounter a traffic jam, you can navigate your way around it.

The impact of growth mindset is being seen in the classroom.  Lambert said, if a difficult concept is being introduced and her students don’t understand it right away they stop her and say ‘this is really hard for me, I don’t understand yet.  I need more practice.’  Previously Lambert’s students who were in a fixed mindset wouldn’t want to admit that they don’t understand because to them that would mean they are not smart, or unable to succeed.

“Now I see a lot of asking questions and raising their hands, admitting when things are hard so that they can improve,” she said.  “Growth mindset has opened that possibility of willingness to learn.”

Students are also taking growth mindset into their lives outside of the classroom.

Fourth grade student Hannah Swanson said she’s used growth mindset in her tumbling activities.  “I’ve been trying to land my aerial on the trampoline and I keep trying and trying,” Swanson said.  “I still haven’t got it, but I’ve been practicing a lot and I almost have it.”

Wang said, “I used the growth mindset when I was climbing Rattlesnake Ledge trail.  At that time I was still little and I had to climb up and at the middle I fell down and my knee got scraped, but I knew I couldn’t go down at that time because I was already almost to the top.  So I kept going and I ended up going to the summit.”

The application of growth mindset both inside and outside the classroom shows the progress and early success of implementing the concept schoolwide.  Students are recognizing the value of persistence, flexibility and creativity when learning and trying new things.

“Over time you can change intelligence, you can learn new things and you teach your brain new things,” said Hetherington.  “That’s what we’ve taken on with our students, not just a challenge of grit and perseverance, but a belief that I can learn new things.”

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.