‘We like to think of our champions…as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.’
- Carol Dweck, Mindset.
This week we have enjoyed an amazingly intense week working with every child in Pinfold Street Primary School. Together we created 20 new pieces, based on 5 stories, alongside 4 Stringcredible performances, 3 sharing shows, 2 assemblies, and 1 new song learned by 420 children. It's all been based on growth mindset, the idea that talents and abilities are qualities that can be developed over time through learning. We cannot know what any child might be capable of, but we do know that teaching and implementing growth mindset can dramatically boost their progress towards fulfilling that potential.
Our Stringcredible Pinfold children have spent this week singing about embracing failure as part of learning ('try again that's how we grow'), thinking outside the box ('take a chance and make mistakes'), the importance of effort ('take a risk and have a go'), seeing new challenges as opportunities to improve ('if you're not prepared to fall then you won't improve at all), perseverance and resilience in the face of difficulty ('find the courage not to stop'), thoughtful training ('neurosculpt your elastic brain') and the motivating power of possibility ('our minds are set on the ‘power of yet’').
By way of modelling these ideas, we asked the children to coach us as we demonstrated fixed and growth mindsets in choreographed rehearsals. We threw several tearful tantrums… ‘I made a mistake. I can't do it!’ / ‘I tried again and I failed again. I'm a failure. I'll never be able to do it!’ / ‘It's easy for you - you can play the violin without even trying!’ / ‘I want to learn to play the cello in one morning!’ …and the children encouraged us… ‘Don't give up! Mistakes help us to get better!’ / ‘Try something different. How about playing it slowly? It will get easier if you keep practising!’ / ‘Difficulty and effort mean you're stretching yourself!’ / ‘Training to do something new means you have to keep going. It's not just about trying hard for one day!’
Afterwards, in small groups, we embedded growth mindset into our approach as the children set about creating their own music and luxuriated in the ‘power of yet’: pushing out of their comfort zones to play new instruments, experimenting with different imaginative ideas and choosing the most successful, and getting to grips with processes like rehearsal and practice which involve deciding what is working and what could be improved. It seems that to exercise and develop creativity, a growth mindset is vital; just as creativity is crucial to exploring and developing a growth mindset. The two are inextricably linked. Following on from ‘Why cultivate a creative curriculum?’ it has been exciting for us to see creativity driving not just performance, but the inner workings of learning. In the words of another Stringcredible song: ‘Superheroes dream big and reach up high, Build a staircase up to the starry sky. If you can imagine it, you can fly! That's creativity!’
Each day this week, the music has told a different story: a penguin with the soul of an eagle who attends flight school, a drum-dream girl who wants to be heard, a boy trying to figure out how to catch a star, a giraffe who can't dance (yet!) and a girl on a mission to make the most magnificent thing. But our mindset heroes haven't been limited to fiction. We've been inspired by the fearless determination of the young minds it has been our privilege to nurture. They are not yet the people they will become and their musical journeys do not end here, but they are not afraid to ‘dream big’! Seeing the ‘reaching up’ as more precious than the ‘starry sky’ we have loved learning how to ‘build staircases’ together. ‘That’s creativity!’
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!