Elise is a high school American Literature and Theater teacher. She also sponsors Rayne, Alive!, a student produced news program. She is currently working on her Masters of Arts in Teaching at McNeese State University.
In honor of the upcoming TedXVermilionStreet Talk on September 12, 2015, in Lafayette, Louisiana, I decided to share a talk I had to create for one of my summer courses: Motivating the Reluctant Learner. If you’ve never seen a TedTalk, do yourself a favor and enlighten your mind by clicking here (only after you have read the rest of this essay, of course). There is discussion among leaders in virtually every field to share motivating discoveries and inspirational experiences, hence the slogan, “Ideas worth spreading.”
TedX is an independently organized program that uses the same discussion platform, but features local leaders. If you haven’t recognized the progressive potential in Acadiana, please start to look around. There are invigorating ideas that will take our Cajun culture and lifestyle to an even greater level.
Now, I wasn’t one of the hundreds of applicants who vied for one of the speaking spots at TedX, however I will use this line to commend Butch Roussel, one of my best friend’s younger brothers who constantly fascinates me with his endeavors. He is the founder of civicside.com, which helps to raise funds for projects around the area. Mr. Roussel is just one of the impressive list of speakers you can hear in just a few more days.
My “talk” is short. We had to discuss Dr. Carol Dweck’s concept of a fixed vs. growth mindset. Dweck is a psychologist who advocates for our ability to constantly improve. I was inspired after studying a few of her concepts. I hope you walk away feeling just that way after you finish this piece.
The Talk: According to a USA Today article on October 9, 2014, Americans are living an average life expectancy of 78.8 years, the highest in history. Let’s use an old cliche that someone “peaked” in high school or college. Their highest moments of achievement, fulfillment, satisfaction, occurred when they were under 20 years old. That means if they live the average life span, nothing of value happens for 58.8 years. How boring and tragic.
I would offer that many Americans live within a fixed mindset. They believe they possess certain talents and abilities and don’t venture away from what they know. Especially in South Louisiana. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “But that’s the way it’s always been done.” There is not much change or growth in a land that I feel is abundant and rich in culture and possibility.
How do we shift people to a growth mindset? One where we can focus on the process of learning, of life, of chances. I live around some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, but their effort only goes into limited domains. If the adults are being examples of a fixed mindset, how can we transition students to growth?
One of the tools I am using right at this moment can be part of the way. Many of these wise elders do not utilize technology. As educators, we can find important Ted Talks and incorporate it into our classrooms for our students to be exposed to these thought processes. We can also send out these messages to parents to encourage them to learn something new or to simply not give up on one of their dreams. We can have students create media to share. We can have older students give pep talks at younger feeder schools to give those students practice and motivation.
The possibilities are endless. We just have be to open to finding what will work in our area and our own lives.
I am not even half way to the average life expectancy and I do not feel like I peaked yet. If it’s a constant uphill climb until the end, I feel that may be just as satisfying.
Don’t close yourself off and become one of those boring adults who stick with what they know or peaked when they were still in their youth.
Be one of those adults who aren’t afraid to say they may not have mastered something yet because they know their best is still yet to come.