The Trouble With Being “Smart”

When I was in my teacher prep days, we were told that telling a child who thinks they’re dumb that they’re smart is a great way to boost their self-esteem and change their attitude. We were told that this would actually encourage them to do more.

Apparently, we were told wrong.

I’m actually surprised by this revelation. I was told that I was smart as a kid. This didn’t make me afraid to fail. In fact, it made me try harder when I couldn’t figure something out immediately. I had to fail at it repeatedly to finally decide my brain just wouldn’t wrap around the concept or task.

The article has actually impacted my teaching already. While I’ve always praised my students for their efforts and independence, I’m trying to be mindful of praise that centers around their intelligence. Of course, I’ve always maintained with my students that they are not dumb (as so many of them assert forcefully). I always tell them they either just haven’t seen the material yet, or they haven’t found the approach that works for them.

I guess I want to instill in my own students the belief that they can do anything so long as they give themselves a chance, and look for other ways to learn those skills that they find confusing.


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