Creating an achievement mindset in your classroom in 2015

By Ashoke Menon, Founder of Ignite for Schools

A child learning to walk for the first time feels a sense of accomplishment when the adults around him cheer, clap and scream for joy when celebrating their achievement. He or she might not necessarily have an idea of the achievement, but they know how they felt when they got the accolades. No wonder that they start running soon after.

So do the rest of us working toward learning a math concept or understanding a writing protocol or completion of reading a book or starting to work out for the first time. That 'feeling' is what fuels further achievement! This is the secret sauce! The ingredient that we ALL have received and perhaps are still receiving,  but we might have forgotten its value as we move deeper and deeper into living in the pressure filled world that is education.

Here's an example of how an 'achievement mindset/system' could be expressed in your classroom.

Teach the mindset of achievement in your classroom. (An achievement pep talk if you will!)

" I will teach a unit. You will learn the unit. I will make it interesting and engaging so we can do the teaching and learning together and at the same time if possible.”

“I will then give you a 'test' to see how much you have learnt. If you show me what you know--and it matches what I expect you to know---we move on---you have achieved!”

“If you don't pass the test----then we will relearn--you might have to put more effort----; then we will retake a test ( I will make one up for you !); you get to show me what you know--and if it matches what I expect----we move on---you have achieved !"

“We will do this all year--in baby steps so you will learn how to achieve small things and the big thing will take care of itself."

“We will learn to walk first then be an Olympic champion later.”

“We will learn to dribble first--then dunk--then take a high pressure last second shot to win a game or play your very best---either way--you will be an achiever"

"If you want to be on  a fast track to be an achiever----then you will do the following: ask questions; attend classes; take notes; review; engage with your classmates; shout out to other people who are helping you learn, be a positive contributor to my class----you can do any or all of these things. I will appreciate it! Your classmates will appreciate it."

Be consistent in your message and in your practice. 

Ever wonder what differentiates between a school or district that make lasting improvements and one who sadly, made very little growth at all?

The critical difference had nothing to do with how much money a district had or the popularity of the reform model they used. The difference was consistency. As Jim Collins puts it, “The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”

One of the reasons we recommend a focus on consistent practices instead of quick fixes is because we know that there is no secret programs that can miraculously transform a school. Real transformation, real improvement takes time. And work. And commitment. We’ve worked in schools where nothing happens for a while, then all of a sudden, boom! A dramatic turnaround.

You don't experience those kinds of gains lurching from one reform model to the next. The yo-yo approach to reform leaves schools burned out, cynical and broke as they continue to invest in the latest curriculum product, professional development program, or educational guru. Chasing every new fad, incessant benchmarking, looking for the latest quick fix means that you never do the hard work actually creating change.

There’s no getting around it. If you want to enable lasting change, if you want to experience lasting results, you have to stay consistent in good times and bad. And--here's the thing---in today's fast moving, instant messaging world, our students need consistency in core principles and character to gain and gather momentum for their lives.

You have to tolerate that it won’t happen right away and you have to trust yourself and your process enough to ride out the tough times, knowing that if you remain committed and consistent, a change is going to come.

We know that’s a lot harder to do if you’re a teacher. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when your district adopts new curricula, issues new policies, or embraces a new reform model every year. But even if your district seems inconsistent, it doesn’t mean that you have to be. By investing in principles and sound practices, you can stay consistent even if everything around you is in turmoil.

A  basic yet effective instructional approach: A summary.

1. Tell them what you are about to teach
2. Tell them what you expect them to learn
3. Share with them why this is relevant to them either now or in the future.
4. Then teach like a champion--engage them, have them work and learn from each other (there are other 'teachers' in your classroom'--tap into them. They are waiting to contribute; as you ask questions, teach them to ask questions; teach them how to take notes
5. Share with them how they will become achievers in your classroom. Share your 'achievement system'
6. Celebrate steps they are demonstrating that can help them become achievers
( e.g. effort, sharing, taking a risk to ask questions, etc)

Our mantra in all of our work with staff and students and in any training:

'Tell me, I forget......,  Show me, I remember....... but Engage me, I understand .......and when I understand,  I can achieve'.