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Filtering by Category: Advice

New Year, New Mindset

Aleah Tarnoviski

Fostering growth mindset in our kids:  Teaching them to love the struggle and celebrate their growth. 

I’ve spent most of my teaching time in third grade, guiding young ones through multiplication facts and folktales and their fair share of assessments.  Third grade is a special year, marked with huge gains both socially, emotionally, and academically for each student. One of the ideals that I value most highly in my classroom is that of growth mindset. Coined by Carol Dweck, a growth mindset refers to one’s belief in their capability, their belief that they can, and their faithfulness to the steps it will take to reach their goals. Think of it as the difference between thinking, “I’ll never be good at math. I’m just not a math person.” vs. “I’m getting better at my math facts. Today I got two more than yesterday!” Research has proven that if we believe we can improve in an area, and we are equipped with the right tools and strategies, we can grow. When students get this, and bring this mindset into their learning, it’s magic. Students are happier and more excited about their learning; they stay committed amongst struggle, and find joy in the journey of math, reading, and writing. 

How can we foster this positivity?  How do we foster this magic and create kids who truly believe, “I can”? Below are a few of my favorite takeaways from my journey as a teacher. 


Remind them of growth

Start by talking about where they started. Remind them of when they were learning to sound out simple words, when they couldn’t add small numbers, or when they couldn’t write their first and last names. Kids have short memories and they get stuck in the moment. Get them to acknowledge where they have made growth. It’s the first step in opening their minds to future progress. 


Set goals

Kids struggle to break down their big goals into attainable steps. Help them break down their big goal (“I want to write a story with a beginning, middle, and end.” “I want to memorize all of multiplication facts”) into weekly, even daily goals. Work with your child’s teacher to ensure both of you are valorizing these goals, as well your child’s efforts towards them. Knowing these small goals helps you celebrate the tiniest of victories.  Rejoice in the small things—small victories add up to big achievements. 


Equip them with tools to succeed

Growth mindset is about more than just effort. Kids need to know that it’s more than just “trying”, it’s utilizing the tools and strategies that they’ve learned to fix mistakes and improve. New tools are sometimes the secret to success. If your child is continuing to struggle in a particular area, don’t allow them to give up. Instead, encourage them to try it a different way, or take what they did correctly and build upon it. 


Hold them accountable

This goes for their work, as well as their thinking. Hold them to the strategies they know they are successful with. Remind them of the progress they’ve made using them, and create opportunities for new practice. Challenge their thinking when they are frustrated; these are your most important moments as their coach! They need your pep talks (not sympathy!) when the going gets tough. Acknowledge the struggle, valorize their effort, and push their belief that they are BECOMING who they’ve set out to be. 


Be a model of growth mindset

We as adults must model what we want our kids to believe. Instead of saying, “Mom’s not good at art,” or “Dad isn’t good at math,” phrase everything as a journey. Try: “I’ve always wanted to be better at drawing,” or “Math is difficult for me, but this strategy helps me a lot.” We do hard things every day, and we’ve got to be transparent about our push through struggle. We push through the struggle because we know what lies on the other end, and we have to raise kids who believe that, too. Our language around how we view our own struggles shapes the way our children view theirs. 


If your interested in more information regarding growth mindset, Carol Dweck wrote a great article in Education Weekly regarding her research and what she’s learned in her most recent work. She also includes great suggestions for parents and teachers! Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset'- Ed Weekly

Mylo Talks Dyslexia

Mylo Dunlop

In honor of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, we’ve tracked down Mylo to share a few thoughts on the true definition of dyslexia and how he’s become more confident in himself as a learner since discovering his learning difference.

Q: When did you find out that you had dyslexia and how?

M: I found out that I had dyslexia when I was in 7th grade. My mom told me that I had dyslexia, which meant that I learn differently from other people, but that it was not a bad thing. She explained that everyone learns differently, that our brains are all wired differently, and that reading and writing might be more challenging for me. 

Q: Can you explain dyslexia to those who are unfamiliar with it? 

M: Dyslexia makes reading and writing harder. Reading individual words is okay, however understanding the meaning of a full sentence or paragraph can be challenging. Following text in sequence can also be a struggle, as I will randomly skip lines, then have to double back and re-read from where I left off. As I see it, dyslexia does have its advantages, as topics like math, sciences and art come easily to me. This may be because I am more of a visual thinker and can easily see things from different perspectives.

Q: Do you think people understand what dyslexia truly is?

M: People definitely do not know what dyslexia truly is, as it is still viewed as a problem. I feel like most people, and even schools, don’t understand that all kids naturally learn differently. Most schools are also not set up to teach to the individual learner, which makes dyslexia stand out even more. Even kids don’t really understand that dyslexia is not a problem.
Like any person, we have our strengths and weaknesses. Reading and writing are naturally not going to be areas of strength. 

Q: Can you share a bit about what it means for you to have dyslexia? 

M: Personally, I approach things in a very visual and mathematical way. For me, it’s honestly kind of just normal, as I knew from an early age that I had dyslexia and so I kind of just grew into it knowing how I learned best. I just found other ways to approach the same things that other kids were doing. I also have a lot of positive support from my parents. I do, however, have to work longer and harder with reading and writing assignments than most kids.

Q: What is your advice to people who don’t have a learning difference to understand people that do?

M: Just understand that dyslexia and other learning differences occur in a lot of kids, it is not a choice or a measure of intelligence. It is simply the way we are wired. There’s not only one way to do things, one thought process, or one way of coming to a conclusion. A lot of people learn in different ways and this needs to be understood.

Q: What is your advice to someone who has just learned that they have dyslexia? 

M: Don’t get overwhelmed by it. It’s something you’ve been living with for your entire life, and it’s okay. Many brilliant and successful people are dyslexic. It’s important to simply understand that you learn differently and to figure out how you learn best. Dyslexia is your normal, and it’s just a different way of looking at things. 

Everyone learns differently, and that should be celebrated! Learn more about Mylo and our story  under the 'The Story' tab on our website. 






The Blessing and Curse of Comparing

Monica Elias

Minutes after our children are born they take a test. Widely accepted, their Apgar scores tell us, this newborn appears in good health or there is reason for concern. The score is derived from knowing most healthy babies perform well on the Apgar, and if they falter on the Apgar, they often have problems. It’s statistics. Comparing our children to others can be critical to understanding them. But of course it’s not the whole story, it’s a quick indication of what may lie ahead.

Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree tells a gripping story of how his first-born did not fair well on the Apgar. After doctors whisked the new born away for a battery of tests prompted by leg inflexibility, they arrived at a conclusion: a leg cramp.

When I give a standardized speech-language test (and I really try not to) I’m looking for where a student stands compared to same age peers. It gives me some data, but again, not the whole picture. It is this part of an evaluation that parents, schools and lawyers want to know about most.  How many standard deviations from the norm are they? What is the cut-off for receiving paid services?

We’re told not to compare our children too much. Our kids are on different trajectories aiming and arriving at more or less the same destination. Whether the goal is sleeping through the night or reciting a sonnet, we’re told our kids will get there in time. Most parents know when their children stumble and struggle more than their classmates. They get them evaluated, to compare them to peers more formally.

Test results are scary—who wants their child defined by a set of numbers?

Results may tell us your child needs a little support, is on an alternate path from peers or needs a different X and Y-axis to chart success. This can be a painful realization, taking months to years.

Much of the world still puts all their eggs in the test basket as the only criteria for success. If, for example you ace the admissions test for Stuyvesant High School, you’re in. It’s irrelevant if you’ve performed at Carnegie Hall or are the class valedictorian.

We know tests don’t tell us the whole story, however when is comparing your child relevant? It is relevant to know the range of typical and if your child is in that range. If you don’t usually see your child among peers and have concerns, ask a teacher. They usually spend a lot more time with your child than you do. It can be a relief to know there is a slight articulation weakness as you suspected, or what is typical for a bilingual child. Test results do not solely define your child, just selected aspects of their growth.

I have a love-hate relationship with testing, mostly hate, to be honest. I am vehemently against the mountain of testing given in public schools. I had no idea conveying this to my son would result in his refusal to fill in any bubbles on a standardized test answer sheet. When asked why, he pointed to his reasons written on the answer sheet. The proctor went straight to the dean, and I considered homeschooling a decent option after they’d kick my son out.

Thankfully little fallout ensued.

I now hail loudly, ‘Do Your Best on the Stupid Test!’

Some tests are inane, some are helpful, and yes, some are necessary evils (think back to your SAT days). Giving the right one at the right time can make a world of difference. An evaluation for Speech and Language can explain frustrations and guide therapy. Results can ally fears, help families, and most importantly benefit your child. The next time your child, whether they’re 4 or 14, takes a standardized test, consider what the purpose is and how results will help them. It may well be a window into how they are learning and what they are capable of at this point in time.   


Monica Elias, MA CCC-SLP

(speech pathologist who occasionally administers tests).