What do you expect…from others?

This entire week I have planned to blog on the concept of mindset as defined by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford. And why not, because, I’m pretty confident there are thousands of websites, youtube videos, blogs, already committed to sharing this powerful research finding. I could go on and on explaining how having a fixed mindset can prevent you from learning, stretching, and daring. But I think if you watch this video, it can explain the concept way better than I could do, plus this blog is not even going to be about mindset…

It is going to be about expectations and here is why. While driving one night I was listening to the latest broadcast of This American Life (I’m still in Serial withdrawal). The episode called Batman began with a few reporters asking NPR employees “do you think the thoughts you have in your head, your private thoughts, could influence the way a rat moves through space” – I know, I know a crazy question, but stay with me, because the episode drew me in and had me thinking about schools.

The podcast went on to share the story of Daniel Kish who has been blind since being a toddler, but can basically “see” by using echolocation. Daniel rides bikes, climbs trees, hikes, and does everything we would expect of a person who can see.  Here is the crazy part; Daniel does not think he is amazing or even special. Basically, he is not very impressed with himself, but the world is amazed. And why? Why is the public so enthralled, but Daniel is not?

It comes down to expectations. Unfortunately, people don’t expect the same from a blind person and, according to Daniel, these low expectations keep blind people from “seeing”. This theory is often referred to as the Pygmalion effect or Rosenthal effect.

Former President Bush coined the term “the soft bigotry of low expectations” – how within schools and in society we often have low expectations for certain students or people. Inevitably, these low expectations have a self-fulfilling effect, because people usually live up (or down) to people’s expectations. If you don’t believe me, listen to this podcast and be impressed, seriously impressed!

Bottomline: as educators and parents…don’t let your thoughts be a child’s barrier.

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Teacher, principal, mom, and runner.

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