Shifting Mindsets

Shifting Mindsets: ‘Students Choose To Do Well’ Vs ‘Students Do Well If They Can’.

The idea that 'students choose to do well' is a dangerous one but it is the default setting in our education systems and in our society in general. Punishment makes sense because a student can just 'choose' to do things in a better way. Teachers justify to themselves that it is the student who is at fault, and not themselves for maladaptive (undesirable/dysfunctional) behaviour because a student is choosing NOT to do things in a better way.

Reframing the situation to, 'children do well if they can' starts the conversation around what is causing the maladaptive behaviour and what barriers are stopping learning from occurring. It puts the focus on a lot of different factors including the learning environment, physiological arousal, states of dysregulation and so forth. If a student is not succeeding (academically, socially or behaviorally) it is not because they don't want to do well, it is because for some reason, they CANNOT do well in that situation or moment in time.

This shifts our thinking from 'why are they choosing this behaviour?' to 'what is preventing them from achieving their best?' It is a small change in perspective that can lead to a huge shift in the way we respond to others. Instead of getting angry, upset, feeling like a failure, or taking the behaviour of others personally, we can shift to a healthier, inclusive mindset.

Ask the question, ‘What is the barrier that is preventing this student from doing well?’

I can assure you that the answer is never because they are ‘naughty’ or ‘lazy’.


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