When you give a kid a TED talk

I recently watched Carol Dweck’s TED talk: The power of believing you can improve and what I found was very interesting. Firstly: Her talk was quite good, I was captivated by how easy it was to focus. Secondly: She talked about how giving children the space and encouragement to grow shows a willingness to learn and accept new challenges whereas students who were not taught to embrace things bigger than themselves give up and shut down, not improving their knowledge.

You may be wondering how this encouragement was being given, she explains that she and her partners in the study encourage the children to tackle  the problems and praise them when they show effort, not just when they got answers correct. They even created a math game that awarded points for effort and a couple other criteria. I thought that this was a great idea. Too often are children scolded and penalized for getting things wrong. I thought this was amazing. Of course, a little piece of me from freshman year Psychology 100 was chanting “correlation does not imply causation!” But the rest of me was chanting back “Shush! I’ve done this and witnessed its magic first hand!”

By saying I’ve done this before I mean that I often encourage people around me, I praise them for giving their best effort. I spread positivity and appreciation to those around me. The smallest reactions I get are at first unsure thanks and “I try my best”s. And as people get to know me, they become increasingly aware that I am genuinely praising and encouraging them. When I do this and they actually believe that I think they are doing well their efforts often grow and the quality of their work is better. By no means is it a perfect system, but it has results.

Carol discusses a couple inner city schools like in the Bronx of New York, and a school on a reservation. All of these classes that her partners and her studied, showed drastic improvement in just a year. The first example was of a kindergarten class, she tells that many of the students could not even hold a pencil at the beginning of the year and if you’re thinking like me, “Well of course they couldn’t properly hold a pencil, Carol, they’re little baby children who’ve never had any formal education, most kids can’t hold pencils at some point…” But she goes on to tell the improvement they had, and how they rose to the top of the charts in their area. Compared to other kindergarteners in the area, they were the top dogs, and that may leave you a little skeptical, but I recommend watching the talk for yourself.

I commend Carol and her partners for their good work. I hope processes like this can become more popular in the future. I hope society in general can lift each other up, and stop scolding everyone for one little ‘wrong’ thought. Have a great day!

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