You’ve likely heard of a growth mindset (and if you haven’t, check out this post). Many students have a fixed mindset: “I am what I am, and you can’t change me.” These kids think of themselves and others regarding smart, dumb, nice, or mean. They think in absolutes with no room for growth. In the last few years, awareness of this mindset and the need for change has increased. Educators have been prompted to encourage a growth mindset in their students. A mindset that they aren’t a finished product and that they are always growing and changing.
This growth mindset is a vast improvement over a fixed mindset and has become a growing trend in today’s schools. But a growth mindset is only a stepping stone to a benefit mindset.
Students with a benefit mindset not only know that they can grow, improve and achieve, but they don’t seek after achievement just for achievement’s sake. They seek after it for the good of those around them as well as for themselves.
This is a higher order skill and one that will likely take their entire school careers and beyond, but one that teachers should continuously be leading them toward. According to Ash Buchanan of benefitmindset.com, teachers can heavily influence students’ notion of what success really means. This includes focus on things like long-term wellbeing and qualities such as optimism and gratitude1.
Imagine if everyone lived up to their potential for good and then shared their talents with others. Not only would we all have our needs met and more, but the world would be a pretty awesome place. It may be idealistic, but when teaching our students to have a benefit mindset, we are striving for the ideal.
“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value” – Albert Einstein
• Classroom Community: The benefit mindset starts with a classroom community. All children need to feel that they belong in their classrooms. They need to feel accepted by others. Belonging and community are essential and foster good self-esteem and happiness, which then encourages those same students to be accepting of others.
• Empathy: A vital part of creating a benefit mindset is helping students abandon their selfishness and develop empathy. Students need to see that their actions impact others, for better or for worse. They soon learn that when they are self-centered, they may get what they want for a moment, but that lasting happiness comes from helping others.
• Keep students from eating alone: Eating lunch all alone is a pretty miserable experience for a kid. Robert Ward, a contributor at Edutopia, suggests:
“Recruit established groups of friends in each grade level to roam the campus looking for classmates who are alone, especially during lunch and recess. These Friendship Ambassadors should invite isolated or withdrawn students to eat or play with them beginning the next day. After any necessary introductions are made, the Friendship Ambassadors hand out written invitations to lonely students in their grade. These invitations include the ambassadors’ names, where they gather during break times, and some of their common interests. This way, hesitant students have an entire day to prepare for joining a new peer group, rather than immediately being coaxed into an unfamiliar social situation.”
• Leadership: True leaders serve those they lead. Allow all students to hold leadership roles and teach them what real leadership means. Often, only outgoing, confident students get the opportunity to lead in the classroom.
Giving everyone leadership opportunities sends the message that we can learn from everyone. When students lead, they can begin to see that they are important to the world around them.2
When all students feel valued, they start to value others around them as well.
• Student-led service: Service projects are an excellent way for students to develop empathy and see the positive impact they can have. We can read and learn about the importance of serving others and for being better, but only when students see the gratitude in the eyes of those they serve, or the impact of their service will the benefit mindset really become integrated into who they are. Service projects are most meaningful when students chose them themselves.
• Educate students to be tolerant, to include all types of kids, and educate students on differences. Part of the benefit mindset is being able to reach out to those that are different than yourself. Take advantage of the diversity in your school and help students learn about people from different countries, cultures, races, and abilities. Give students opportunities to befriend students with disabilities and give students with disabilities an integral role in the classroom here possible. Helping other students and learning about their similarities overcoming differences will help students develop empathy.
A benefit mindset will bring joy to your students in addition to them being able to achieve. Students who can have a benefit mindset will make themselves and the world, a better place.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
1. Buchanan, Ash. “Redefining Success in Education: The Benefit Mindset.” Medium, Benefit Mindset, 18 June 2016, medium.com/benefit-mindset/redefining-success-in-education-the-benefit-mindset-6dc5743733f6.
2. Ward, Robert. “Exploring the Benefit Mindset.” Edutopia, 27 Feb. 2018, www.edutopia.org/article/exploring-benefit-mindset.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.