A high school junior once told me about a transformative conversation she had with a teacher. Here’s an edited excerpt from our exchange:

STUDENT: “I think I always felt like I was the dumb kid in my English class because even though I always took more difficult classes, for some reason I just struggled in English. But I talked to the teacher one day about it and she said, ‘No, don’t beat yourself up, you’re actually just as good as the rest of the class.’ I needed to hear that, I guess, and it really made me think about myself… Like, even if you think you’re the dumb kid, you really aren’t. It’s all just perception. Some kids come off as super smart when really, they aren’t any smarter than you.”

ME: “Did that have a big impact on you when that teacher said that?”

STUDENT: “It did, actually. It really got me thinking like, ‘Oh! Maybe I’m smarter than I think I am’.”

In that exchange, that student began shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Students who believe that “smart is what you work to become” are benefitting from a growth mindset. They are much more likely to work hard, learn from setbacks, and grow through the challenges they encounter. Those who believe “smart is what you are” are being limited by a fixed mindset. They are more likely to “coast” on their abilities or to give up based on the belief that they’ll never get better.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, a pioneer in mindset research, reminds us that “test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up.” As teachers, we need to take the long view, seeking to cultivate the potential and learning in each and every student.

Cultivating for ourselves and our students a growth mindset is the foundation of that commitment.
— Kent Pekel, Ed.D.
President and CEO, Search Institute

 The preceding text is an adaptation of research done by the Search Institute and an excerpt from the March Renaissance Kit: A Mindset for Growing

This year, Jostens is partnering with Search Institute, an organization dedicated to researching and understanding what kids need in order to succeed. Over the past 25 years, Search Institute has studied the strengths and challenges in the lives of more than five million middle and high school youth across the country and around the world. Like Jostens Renaissance, Search Institute focuses on young people’s strengths, rather than emphasizing their problems or deficiencies. Visit to learn more.

Below you will find the Turning Problems into Possibilities guide. Click the image to download a PDF with class activities, statistics and research around problem solving.



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