A Book Club Conversation: Growth and Fixed Mindset and Finding your Passion

I read a list of alternatives to boring PD about a week ago. One of the ideas that made me smile was the Book Club. At the beginning of this year I started a book club, and it has been a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration. But this Book Club is not with teachers, it is with Parents. Together as a group (we have about 4-6 regulars) we decide on a book, give ourselves a couple of weeks to read it, and then meet and discuss how it applies to our kids and how they learn. As parents (and I count myself as a parent ahead of a teacher) it has helped to give us new ideas for how to engage our kids in school and life. As a teacher, it has helped me bond with the parents, and it has been a wonderful source of ideas and different perspectives.

So far this year we have read:
  • Finding your Element, by Sir Ken Robinson 
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  • Mindset, by Carol Dweck
And then something interesting happened.... 

While we were discussing Dweck's Mindset, we all felt that as much as we loved her message and the simplicity of the idea (growth versus fixed mindset), we all felt that is was almost too simplistic, and that it didn't take into account the complexity of personalities and the environment in which we find ourselves. Somebody suggested that perhaps there is a link between the Growth mindset that Dweck discusses, and the Passion that Robinson discusses (I can't remember whose idea it was, don't you love when that happens!).

Are we more likely to be growth minded towards a subject that we are passionate about? And fixed minded towards a subject that we do not enjoy? There are subjects I just find boring (algebra and calculus come to mind) and I wonder if it is not a matter of growth minded versus fixed mindedness, but rather if it is about passions and love? I feel more alive with the written word and the arts, and am more willing to make mistakes and reflect on my learning. When dealing with all those little symbols and letters in chemistry, I feel like falling asleep or picking up a book and escaping to a fantasy world. When it comes to abstract mathematics and scientific notation, I am very fixed minded. Don't get me wrong, I love science and I love math, just not the stuff they taught in school.

Is my lack of passion preventing me from being growth minded? Or is my fixed mindset stunting my possible passion?

Is my passion for the arts feeding my growth mindset? Or is my lack of passion for chemistry creating the fixed mindset?

Either way, there is a link here.

Is it unrealistic for kids to be passionate about every subject we teach in school? I wonder if I could have ever met a teacher who would have pulled me away from books and made me fall in love with abstract mathematics. Maybe.

Or maybe we expect kids to be passionate about too many things, thus negating the real passion that already exists. Maybe, instead of Schools Killing Creativity, we have a case of Schools Killing Passion. And once that passion is killed, we blame a fixed mindset, instead of the system that created it. Maybe.

Or maybe it is how we teach the subjects, the constant push towards more knowledge and following the script of the curriculum. Maybe we make it all seem to important, and we don't let kids pursue the things about the topic that interests them. We tell them what to learn, what we think is important for them to learn, and they eventually lose interest, and lose their natural curiosity which the growth mindset feeds off.

I don't know.

What I do know is this....

How do we kindle passion and allow the growth mindset to flourish?


  1. By the way Craig I love your blog and I hope you don't mind me reading it. I just have some comments re:passion versus fixed mindset.

    First of all I was surprised that the group thought the book was simple. It might be an easy theory but it was quite a revelation to me that almost anything is possible if we put in the effort and time and have the correct instruction, especially the arts! And it is not easy to encourage a growth mindset in our kids everyday if it doesn't come naturally!

    As for being passionate about anything, I think though that to do so, we must first have a growth mindset to feel we can do these things before having the passion to do it. We might be interested in many things at the start but if we get frustrated and give up at the first obstacle, we will never be able to feed the passion we might have at the beginning. Obviously we all have subjects we are more or less passionate in, but I think we have so little time that we choose not to feed certain subjects we might be less interested in.

    I hate maths and physics too but only because I never understood the relevance of it. Since then I have had other people explain how maths and physics are used to prove our very existence, the existence of God and maybe the fact that we don't really exist at all!! ;) But since those theories don't really interest me as I'm more interested in improving my existence and that of those around me, than to mathematically prove anything exists at all, I'll probably never really get any good in maths or physics....but people have told me time and time again that I would have made a good engineer! So maybe if I had a tiger mom when I was younger and I was pushed harder to go into the science stream instead of the arts, and the science and math teacher weren't so boring, I would have become an engineer...would I have been happier? Who knows? I might have become passionate in building airplanes...anyway I don't think you have a fixed mindset towards maths and science today, you just don't have enough time to be good in everything!

    So I believe that cultivating the growth mindset starts from the time we are babies and thus is the role of the parents in the beginning (wish I had read the book before!). Obviously once the child is in school, it is then the role of the teacher to cultivate the growth mindset, since you are seen as "gods" by our kids until the age of maybe 12? ;)
    Anyway, I have learnt alot from reading the book and I try to change my language towards Xxx and Xxx to enable them to feel anything is possible if they put in the required effort. So again thank you for suggesting the book!


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