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Book Night With Aliza Chanales of Yeshivat Noam Features ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck

Yeshivat Noam parents and members of the community gathered on October 27 at the home of Tammy and Paul Malek for a book discussion led by Aliza Chanales, middle school assistant principal for General Studies. Ms. Chanales graduated from Barnard and received a Master’s degree in Middle School General Education from Bank Street College of Education.

The event, presented by the Parent School Partnership’s Parent Education sub-committee, focused on the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck, a psychologist and leading researcher in the fields of personality, social and developmental psychology. This groundbreaking book has practical implications for adults and children alike. The discussion centered on how we can use Dweck’s research to improve our children’s success both in school and at home.

Dweck and her team discovered that people generally have two ways of thinking about their capabilities, what she terms the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset.” People with the fixed mindset believe that their strengths and weaknesses are set and there isn’t much a person can do to change that. This leads to an unwillingness to take on challenges, a fear of failure and an overall lack of drive to succeed. People with a growth mindset, however, believe that there is always room for improvement and with effort and persistence they can achieve ever-greater success.

Ms. Chanales related that she has seen this in action among her students. After smooth academic sailing in elementary school, when sixth graders meet their first challenging math problem, many seem to shut down in panic or blame external factors. This reflects the fixed mindset. Other students, while more rare, seem to relish the new challenge and plunge in. Obviously, it would be ideal if all children could develop a growth mindset, for optimal success. Dweck presents strategies for helping children attain the growth mindset that parents and teachers can employ. These include being careful never to label a child’s abilities or traits, providing highly specific feedback on a child’s work and actions, and praising the process more than the outcome.

The Yeshivat Noam faculty is using these and other growth-mindset strategies in school every day. The growth mindset is critical for more than just academic success, says Ms. Chanales. It is instrumental in improving one’s character traits as well. With practice and effort one can become more empathic or perhaps less shy. “Some students will casually remark, ‘That’s not my thing,’” says Ms. Chanales. “But with a growth mindset they learn to see how their positive traits can improve. In the same way that practice can help you improve in basketball, practicing a growth mindset can also help you become more helpful, empathetic or grateful. Sometimes, just believing you can improve and getting into good habits in these areas can drastically enhance the ease and comfort with which you employ these social and emotional skills.”

As a parent of five Yeshivat Noam students, I feel appreciative that I have chosen a school that is so focused on the “growth” mindset. Yeshivat Noam continues to teach this mindset to our children by modeling it by the faculty.

Everyone in the room left feeling self-reflective about their own personal “mindset” and inspired to guide their children towards a growth mentality.

Bena Schwartz, PhD, is co-chair of the Parent-School Partnership at Yeshivat Noam.

By Bena Schwartz, PhD

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