Join in the FCCPS Summer Read

You're invited to join in the FCCPS Community Summer Read
Posted on 06/08/2018

Mindset: The 2018 FCCPS Community Summer Read

With the coming of the end of the school year, I want to thank you. I am so excited to be working on behalf Falls Church students, staff, and faculty. This year I have been impressed with the many ways our families build relationships with those in our division, fostering a genuine sense of community. When I arrived just a little over a year ago, I presumed that this is what makes FCCPS special. And I was right.

In Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, the opening line is “good is the enemy of great.” This line has always stuck with me because I’ve been privileged enough to work in many “good” school systems. I believe that we, as a learning community and organization, have an opportunity in the next couple of years to transcend “good” and truly become “great.” To do this, we will collectively take a step back and vigorously interrogate what we do in our work to identify if it aligns with what research tells us is best practice.

One great thing about the field of education is that we know what best practice based on research and data is, what is approaching best practice, and what isn’t best practice. As a team, we will be looking for ways to close the gap between what we know is best practice and what we do that may fall short…this is closing the “knowing and doing” gap that fosters continuous improvement.

Doing this work takes a “growth mindset” for ourselves and our students. This summer, I've given our entire staff a little homework, and I'd like to invite you to join us. We will be reading Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. This book will help us set the stage for how we can observe our work through a lens of growth, improvement, and transcendence in education that will get us great. We will also use this book next year as a framework for conversations, professional learning, and if we're lucky “an evening with Carol Dweck” at GMHS (details to follow).

Should you join us, as you are reading this summer, please consider the following guiding questions that will further conversations in the fall:

Chapter 1

  1. Is there a talent or ability you would like to have but don’t? How do you know you don’t have it—what’s your evidence? Identify one or two things you might do to develop that talent or ability?
  2. Think of a time when you faced a critical opportunity or challenge with a fixed mindset. What were your thoughts and worries (about your abilities, about other people’s judgments, about the possibility of failure, etc.)? Now think of that same opportunity or challenge using a growth mindset. How might the situation have been different? Can you use a growth mindset to assist with plans and strategies you’re thinking about now?
  3. Think about your students with both fixed and growth mindsets. How has this chapter helped you better understand them?

Chapter 2

  1. Think of something you’ve always wanted to learn or do but didn’t because you weren’t sure you would be successful. What steps could you take to learn the skill or overcome your fear of failure?
  2. Re-read the section about the teacher’s reaction to having to judge a student based on one score (p. 28-29). Consider how educators make decisions based on fixed thinking. How could we use the same information in a growth mindset?

Chapter 3

  1. Did you always assume that success came from innate talent or ability? Discuss people you know who are brilliant or talented but not necessarily successful. Also, discuss people who are not so bright or talented but who are highly successful. How did they do it?
  2. Have you ever trusted someone’s negative appraisal of your ability or talent? Think about it now. How were they able to judge your potential?
  3. How does your mindset about your students affect how you parent?

Chapter 4

  1. How are teaching and coaching similar? How can mindsets of athletes and students affect their performance on the field and in the classroom?
  2. Is there a sport you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t because you believe you would not be successful? What is the activity and how could you start to learn it?
  3. If you enjoy sport or competition, does your joy come from playing your hardest or from winning? Do you take losses hard? Why? What do losses mean about you, your ability, or your image of yourself?

Chapter 5

  1. Do you think leaders are born rather than made, as in “a born leader?” Why?
  2. Consider leadership in its multiple parts—knowledge of the organization, management skills, negotiation skills, planning for the future, and any others that come to mind. Are each of these traits learnable or not? What does this tell you about becoming a better leader?

Chapter 6

  1. Think of a time when you felt rejected. Did you ruminate and harbor ill feelings? What could you take from an especially painful rejection that might be useful or constructive for current or future relationships?
  2. Do you close yourself off to certain relationships because you need perfection/total alignment? Is this desirable or even possible? Think of people who are lovely additions to your life in spite of their imperfections. Think of people who include you in their circle despite your shortcomings.
  3. How do you handle criticism or perceived criticism? Are you able to hear and consider it or do you make excuses for why it’s not your fault? What do you think criticism means? How might you handle it differently in the future?

Chapter 7

  1. Do you praise your students to make them feel smart? How could you give growth-oriented praise instead?
  2. Do you excuse your child or student’s failures so you won’t harm their self-esteem? Think of how you might use these occasions to teach a growth mindset and help them succeed.
  3. What are some ways you can put the growth-mindset strategies into practice?

Chapter 8

  1. Think of a time when you had a significant setback, failure, or rejection in your life. Did you hear the fixed mindset voice in your head? What did it say? Now, how would you answer with a growth mindset voice?
  2. Think of something about yourself or in your life that you’ve wanted to change. Has a fixed mindset prevented you from making the change? Think about it from a growth mindset and develop a concrete plan for reform.
  3. What steps can you take to change the mindset of your student?
  4. What are two important concepts or ideas you can take away from this book?

Modified from Learning Support Services, Austin ISD. From Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck;; and

I hope you will join us. It's our chance to take a school system revered in the state and across the country to the next level of excellence. But we can’t do it by doing what we’ve always done. Now’s the time to grow.

Dr. Peter J. Noonan
Superintendent, Falls Church City Public Schools

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