Growth Mindset and EAL Students

I’m writing a little earlier than normal this week because I’m away tomorrow (Friday) as I’ll be attending the SIS EAL Conference at Shekou International School.  It is being coordinated, in part, by a friend of mine from my time in Italy and the keynote speaker is EAL guru Dr. Virginia Rojas.  This conference has produced nothing but rave reviews in the past (some of you have been fortunate enough to attend) and I expect nothing less from this weekend!

Ever since I began in education I’ve been working with EAL populations.  My first classes in America were, in fact, comprised almost entirely of students who spoke a language other than English while at home.  I guess you could say that I don’t really have an understanding of what it would be like to teach a non-EAL population; I actually hadn’t come to that realization until just now!  When I think about all of the EAL students I’ve had over the years I’m always amazed at how fast these students can grow and excel in English and, usually, they do it in an incredibly short amount of time.  We’ve certainly seen this happen time and again at our school, take a second to think about all the incredible students you’ve encountered…in some cases it’s awe-inspiring to consider what they’ve achieved.

For many of these students, whether they know it or not, it’s the Growth Mindset that allows them to be so successful.  They know that with hard work, practice, risk taking and a decent amount of failure they will be able to learn English.  Interestingly enough, I don’t think many of these kids even realize what they are doing; this is just how they live their life.  On the other end of the spectrum are the kids who have seemingly given up and don’t put in the effort.  Last year we looked at Carol Dweck’s work in Mindset, a book I’ve gone back to a few times to re-read.  At one point Dweck discusses “Students Who Don’t Care”, she does doesn’t believe that this is really possible.  Before she launches into a discussion about Growth-Minded Teachers (a group we should all aspire to join) she says about these particular students, “It’s common for students to turn off to school and adopt an air of indifference, but we make a mistake if we think any student stops caring.”

Almost every single student at our school who is seemingly “turned off to school” is an EAL student.  Perhaps there’s causation perhaps not, but there is no denying that there is a correlation.  Take some time to think about those kids who seem “turned off” in your class and consider them in a different light for a moment.  Is there something that you could do to encourage them to turn back on?

I’ll leave you with that for now.  You all know me well enough to realize that I’m going to be coming at you fast and furious with EAL strategies and ideas next week 🙂  Enjoy your Friday and the weekend…get outside, it’s supposed to be a BEAUTIFUL weekend!!  Don’t forget that Jerry Rice is still in town, in case you didn’t get enough at Wednesday’s assembly.

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