The City Year Boston team at the Mattahunt Elementary School is helping students learn the difference between telling themselves, “I’m not good at reading” and “I’m not good at reading yet.”

The start of the school year can be exciting, but also daunting for students as they take on different subjects and learn new concepts. Annie Vasishta, a City Year Boston AmeriCorps member, was all too familiar with hearing students express concern about their ability to catch on. She’d hear them declare:

"Miss Annie, I can’t do this."

"I'm not good at reading." 

"I can't do math." 

Annie serves in a fourth grade classroom at the Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan. During Basic Training Academy, when corps members receive hundreds of hours of training to prepare them for their year of service, Annie learned about an interesting concept called “growth mindset.” Developed by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, the idea suggests that some people have a “fixed mindset” and believe their skills are based simply on nature, while others believe that through the right actions they can become good at anything. 

Annie is working closely which the teacher who leads the fourth grade class where she serves to introduce growth mindset in subtle ways. She says one of the approaches she learned during City Year Boston’s Basic Training Academy was the power of adding the word “yet” to the end of negative statements. This approach allows students to tell themselves and hopefully learn to believe in a different truth that sounds more like:

"Miss Annie, I can’t do this yet.”

"I'm not good at reading yet.” 

"I can't do math yet.” 

Annie says reminding students that with perseverance and time they can improve, helps them become more patient with themselves. When students compare themselves to a classmate who they believe is better at math or reading, she reminds them that it could simply be because he or she has made choices to study more. She tells them they each have the power to make choices at school that can help them improve. She says when they’re especially down on their ability, she asks, “If your little brother were struggling what would you say to him? How would you be a strong role model?”

Recently Annie introduced the idea of growth mindset to all of Mannahunt Elementary School through their morning announcement. This was her greeting:“Welcome back from a relaxing weekend. It is Monday, November 10, and we hope you all start your week off successfully. Meaning, you all practice all the STARS values throughout the week. This week’s challenge is to practice a GROWTH MINDSET. Meaning, do not say, “I can’t do this.” Instead, say, “I can’t do this YET, and I will continue to work through this to understand.” Persevere through a challenge. 

Also, support one another in practicing this mindset.”After the announcement, students were nominated for rising to the week’s challenge. The student who won the growth mindset challenge was announced the following week:

“Chris tried his absolute best to complete a problem during our math block with Mr. G.  Instead of quitting, despite the challenge, he persevered through the problem to attain success. “

Annie says there is a look that comes over students’ faces when they first understand the idea of growth mindset. She says she hopes that understanding will stay with them for a lifetime.


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