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According to Dweck, “Manystudents believe that intelligence is fixed, that each person has a certain amount, and that’s that.” All that really means is people don’t realize that you aren’t just born good at something. Throughout my school career, until college, I always had a fixed mindset when it came to art, tests, and homework.
When it comes to art, I’ve never been able to say with any sort of confidence, “I can do this”. Everyone in my class was better than me from a young age, and I would be told I was just better at reading when I expressed my concerns. I was always told I just didn’t have a talent for art and that was okay! I was a better reader! My art projects eventually just didn’t get done because I told myself I would be fine with my reading scores. I didn’t have the support for art I wish I had. Dr. Dweck talks about parents making sure their children feel good about themselves. “In the 1990s, parents and schools decided that the most important thing for kids to have was self-esteem”. For me, this had some jarring consequences. In high school specifically, there was one assignment that plagued me the entire year. We had to create a small comic book for one of the major stories or books we studied throughout the year. From Odysseus to Of Mice and Men, the class chose their stories. Mine was Odysseus, a person favorite. That didn’t save me from believing I couldn’t do it because mine didn’t look as good as anyone else’s. Even now I avoid showing anyone my drawings when I doodle or draw because I feel I have to compare myself to others, no matter how much effort and time I spend on something. There doesn’t seem to be a point because I know I won’t be as good.
As an apt contrast to my short comings in art, my scores in tests were usually high. I was praised for my high test scores even when I didn’t really study. I got As and Bs on tests with little to no effort on my part besides basic reviews. I never learned how to properly study because I never saw a need to. It was never pushed as something important. As I got into higher grade levels tests got harder and I still didn’t see studying as important. It hadn’t been for so long, why would it be now? I was so smart the tests should have been easy for me. I learned the hard way in middle school that studying is actually more than important that I gave it credit for. I started to study but I was still doing poorly on tests. I started to tell myself maybe I wasn’t as smart as I gave myself credit for. Family members and teachers told me I was better than my grades were showing. The effort I was putting in wasn’t making a difference. I was still being told I needed to just be better. Instead of helping me, it made me feel like I didn’t have enough intelligence to do everything I should have been. “It might tell them that intelligence is just something you have and not something you develop”. This became the mindset I have today when it comes to tests and studying. I can’t help feeling like it’s all for naught. I want to change this mindset, and to a degree I have, but the fears and self-doubt linger. I can’t help but question myself. Even now as a college student who’s learned about fixed and growth mindsets, I find myself questioning and doubting if studying will be worth it. I should just be good at this. However, that’s not how it works and if I’m not careful I fall into the same pit of despair.
My test scores were directly affected by my homework scores. Homework had never been a priority to me for many of the same reasons that studying wasn’t. I could get by with test scores. I had never seen how my effort in my homework translated into success on tests and better grades. It had always been a useless waste of time. Why should I bother doing any homework when I get As and Bs on tests? Why should I have to worry when homework was such a small percent of my final grades? Homework didn’t matter in my mind. There was no reason for me to do it. And just like with tests, which came around to become a massive problem in middle and high school. Everything became so much harder. Dweck mentions that “The children praised for their intelligence lost their confidence as soon as the problems got more difficult.” I had so much more difficulty facing the harder problems. In middle school I had to start doing my homework, but it just didn’t want to seem to stick. I’d be really good at doing my homework for a while. The problems started to arise as my grades went up and my effort went down. I’d be stuck in a vicious cycle of starting to develop good habits, be praised for the grades, and, as the grades inevitably went down again, be met with concerns that I was better than this. Why didn’t I just do the homework? I’m smart enough to do it. It should have been easy. And it was! Until high school. High school was brutal on my self-esteem. No matter what I did or how hard I studied, I just wasn’t getting the grades I wanted or knew I should be getting. Homework didn’t make sense, so why should I do it? I wasn’t going to get it so what was the issue? I scraped by on Cs and Ds, with the occasional B, but wasn’t motivated to change my mindset until college.
I still have a fixed mindset when it comes to these three things, but I work every day to change that about myself and make myself a better student. The struggle to overcome it is difficult some days, yet I refuse to give up. Dweck said it best, “We need to correct the harmful idea that people simply have gifts that transport them to success”. Students and children need to be praised for their effort over their skill.
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