I wish I’d had a chance to write a proper post about my Klingenstein experience so far, but keeping up with the assignments and trying to get enough sleep has proved a full-time job. So in lieu of that, I’m posting my reflection on the reading we were assigned from Carol Dweck’s Mindset. She will be with us at the Summer Institute tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to it.

The idea of the fixed mindset in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success resonated with my experience of law school. I was so absolutely terrified I didn’t belong there that I spent as little time as possible in the law school. I think I also experience a fixed mindset when it comes to a certain kind of writing, usually assigned academic writing. The idea of working really hard at a piece of writing and it turning out crappy is so hard I usually just slough off something at the last minute. (The irony is that I don’t think I’ve ever had the experience of actually working hard at writing and having it turn out badly. Usually my best writing comes as a result of hard work and solid revision.) I’ve experienced this even at Klingenstein. Someone, who shall remain nameless, failed to write her assigned journal entries for today.

The bit that stood out to me most from the Dweck reading was: “Why is effort so terrifying [for someone with a fixed mindset]?… It robs you of all your excuses” (42). Just typing that I feel my throat tightening because the idea of going all out and then failing is petrifying. This fear rarely grips me when it comes to teaching though. I don’t like the idea of failing at teaching, and I’m certainly susceptible to the need for praise for my teaching. But there’s an inherent joy and mystery in teaching that makes it ok to go flat out for it, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as I’d like. While I occasionally despair if a lesson bombs, my more likely response is My, that’s curious. (I’ve borrowed the notion of failure being a curiosity from someone, but I don’t remember who.) Dweck says those with the growth mindset may feel “overwhelmed…but their response [is] to dig in and do what it takes” (58). This is my experience of teaching.

Dweck’s descriptions of mindsets feels a bit simplistic to me, although that may be a function of just reading portions of Mindset. I also felt like she belabored her argument with more examples than necessary. I may be curmudgeonly, but I can only take so many athletic examples in one book.


Unrelated postscript… Above are some of the most beautiful hydrangeas I’ve ever seen. They’re not ridiculously showy the way some can be. They’re growing behind our dorm.

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