Grow, Prune, Repeat…

CategoriesEDLD 5313growth mindsetTagged

It’s time now to step back a little over 4 months (or approximately 237 years, depending on how you measure–time is subjective and relative, especially if you’re a grad student and a music teacher around the holidays) and revisit my very first assignment in the DLL program, my growth mindset plan. It’s really more of a presentation of a plan than a greatly detailed look at the plan itself, but that’s neither here nor there for now.

It was fun to look at this, with the benefit of hindsight and 12 pending graduate credits. I like it. I like the presentation of the information, the interactive elements, the personal connections I was able to make with the material. I feel like that last piece is especially important with regard to significant learning environments; I think I was able to illustrate how the idea of a growth mindset really helped me accomplish some authentic learning and solve some real-world/my-world problems.

I also know now how far-off target some of this plan was. Which is to be expected–it was my first attempt at such a thing. And if you get everything right the first time, where’s the fun in that? In the words of veteran catcher Crash Davis to rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh in 1988’s Bull Durham, “Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls–more democratic.”

Costner’s finest work, and maybe the greatest baseball movie ever made. Discuss.

But I digress.

Some of what I planned out has worked well. I teach music, and in my upper level classes, I have kids that I’ve already taught for 2 or 3 years. We’re comfortable with each other, there’s a great deal of trust there, and so if I bring them this whole elaborate thing to shift their thinking, most of them are at least willing to give it a go, even if it’s a bit unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

My newer kids, though, don’t respond that quickly. I’m finding that it’s more effective with them to actually not talk about it much at all, at least not directly. Rather, I just try to live the growth mindset myself and model it in my classroom, and talk about elements of it as they naturally arise. For example, in my music technology course, the idea of feedback and revision is an important one, and as the students do more and more creative projects, they’re learning firsthand the value of constructive critique, and that making mistakes is a tool, not a liability. As my relationship with my students grows, and they grow to trust both me and their peers, I think we’ll do more explicit discussion of the growth mindset, but trying to pull them into this idea right away, when many of them are experiencing enough of a challenge with the novelty of the course material itself, may have been asking too much. It kind of reminds me of something one of my music professors said once about music theory (the study of scales, musical structure, etc.)–“Music theory is how we talk about what we’re already doing.”

I do want my colleagues to see my plan–in fact, the version in my original post is one that is targeted at teachers, and the trust relationship with them is already firmly in place. But, again in the true spirit of significant learning, I didn’t want to present them with something I hadn’t done myself.  So they will have to wait for a little more revision until I share this plan with them. As with the nurturing of a tree, and as the title of this post suggests, grow, prune, repeat….


Mount, T., & Burg, M. (Producers), & Shelton, R. (Director). (1988). Bull Durham [Motion picture]. United States: Orion Pictures.

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About the author

I am an instructional technologist for the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry in Richmond, VA. Before that, I spent more than 20 years as a public school music teacher in Chesterfield County, VA, primarily teaching guitar and music technoogy at the high school level. I hold a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Richmond, and a Master of Education degree with a focus on Digital Learning and Leading from Lamar University. I believe that every person has the need, the desire, the ability, and the right to learn, and that as educators we must meet our students wherever they are, and help bring them to where they want and deserve to be.