Head's Note: 7 September 2022

  • Head's Note
Tobin Bechtel

As we begin a new year, the joy of learning is readily evident all over our campus - in classes and beyond. Teachers are excited to get their classes going with an inspiring start that will nurture passion and purpose all year long. Students are sharing stories, signing up for activities, and getting their brains and bodies back up to speed for the challenges of our curriculum and opportunities. All of this requires a growth mindset.

The idea of a growth mindset is a theory that has been developed and researched for over thirty years by Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, and her pioneering work has influenced pedagogical trends in actively fostering challenge-based learning and resilience.  It is essential that this is paired with positive coaching to help students understand they can learn from “failure” and that their intelligence can grow with effort and scaffolded success. Students can develop the idea that “a challenge only becomes an obstacle when you bow to it” (Ray Davis). 

One approach that Dweck developed from her research is the “power of ‘yet’.” This elegantly simple premise has been tested with a wide variety of age groups and backgrounds and has shown that when we replace “can’t” with “yet” in scenarios where students are struggling, it produces exponential results in breaking through a block. So when we think, “I can’t do it” or “I’ll never be able to,” we need to add “yet.” When teachers and parents add this to their regular interactions, “You can’t do it, yet,” it is powerful and changes the conversation and mindset. Even as parents, we may easily slide into a fixed mindset when we are stressed. It is essential that we model the idea of growth by sharing what we struggle with, how we learn, and how we need to adjust and grow to meet our everyday challenges. 

We can help by opening up opportunities and exploring interests with our children so we can extend their experiences. Often children balk at the unknown or unexperienced offering. When my children were younger, I wanted them to develop the same love of the outdoors that I have. When I would say “let’s take a hike!”, they would complain that “it’s too cold” or “I’m too tired”, etc. When my Uncle saw me caving into this he reminded me that he never put up with the griping and would jolly them along for the first fifteen minutes of grumpiness knowing that they would soon get past their concerns and usually enjoy themselves. He reminded me that I was the same at their age and look at me now - taking on the Tahoe Rim Trail and exploring the Sierras with zest.

When we approach life with optimism and enthusiasm it impacts those around us. The way our students are challenged and supported for success permeates our school culture. Success builds on this and the more we nurture a growth mindset–a “can do” spirit–the better we get. All of this takes courage, intellectual courage and “gut” courage. I believe that Sage Ridge truly fosters the courage to continually grow and develop a lifelong joy of learning.

Here is to a joyful year of learning as a community


Tobin S. Bechtel
Head of School

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