Do you remember how you felt when you got a low grade in school?  I am several years removed from my academic career, but can still close my eyes and picture the look of panic on my younger self’s face, staring at a paper marked up in red with a giant failing grade on top. Did this distress motivate me to do better next time? Maybe, but what I remember most is feeling anxious that I wouldn’t be able to improve enough, and that I’d fail again.

How did you feel in this situation? 

What if, instead of failing grades, kids received “Not Yets”? This concept of encouraging a “growth mindset” is what Professor Carol Dweck speaks about in her TED Talk,  “The power of believing that you can improve”, and it’s been successful in several school districts across the U.S.

As Dweck expresses, a “Not Yet” allows kids to understand they’re on a learning curve, and helps give them a path to the future. Furthermore, Dweck challenges us to think about the way we praise kids. For example, she suggests traditional grades can create a need for constant validation that extends well past a person’s school years. Instead, perhaps we should be mindful of creating that “path to the future” by rewarding the efforts, strategies and progress of kids.

This mindset can apply to the classroom, a FIRST® team, or any learning experience. At FIRST, we want kids (and adults!) to reflect on accomplishments throughout their team’s season. Sure, a great Robot Game score is a good reason to celebrate, but we also hope you think about the many steps it took to achieve your goals, and how you can progress even further.