September 14, 2017
Webster’s dictionary defines growth in many ways. One definition stands out to me, “progressive development.” As I reflect on this definition, I find myself questioning whether or not all growth is progressive. Progressive maintains a positive connotation. Certainly, when data communicates that students are achieving academic milestones that growth is progressive. When athletes achieve success, we again define that growth as progressive. The world of technology would assert that technological advancement again personifies progressive growth.
In each of these scenarios, growth can be achieved through a variety of methods. It can be achieved through steady, methodical effort much like the tortoise in his race with the hare. However, it can also be achieved through forced effort that develops angst, stress or burn out. This type of achieved growth supports another Webster definition. One that gives me pause. According to Webster, growth can also be defined as “An abnormal proliferation of tissue.” In layman terms, that growth is a tumor.
A growth mindset both enables and empowers. Growth enables people to accomplish great things-World Series Championships, Gold Medals, Fortune 500 level success. It enables men and women to become heart surgeons, rocket scientists, or Nobel Peace Prize winners. Yet, is that the only measure of growth? What about the daily growth of a 6th grader when he gets to class with all of his supplies, on time, for a week? Isn’t that growth as well? How about the shy girl who approaches a group in the cafeteria? I argue that that too is growth.
What growth are we truly seeking?
Do we focus so far on future outcomes in life that we forget the journey? When someone sets out to climb a 14ner, does he or she begin with highest 14ner in the state? When someone sets out to run a marathon, surely they don’t start by running 17 miles. Hal Higdon would quickly provide the dangers in that training plan. The same is true of our students. While we desire to see growth that leads to a life of success, we must ask ourselves very intentional questions. In the present moment, what do I measure as success? Are the goals of the day realistic? Is the growth we desire “progressive development” or “an abnormal proliferation of tissue”?
My hope is that we spend each day advocating for progressive development. With each progression toward growth, my hope is that students achieve growth in some capacity each day, even if that growth comes through learning from wrong choices or from failing a test.
Honored to Serve You All,
Food for Thought: ADULTING: DO KIDS REALLY THINK GROWING UP IS AN ACCOMPLISHMENT?