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The Power of Mindset

Ashley Seastone, GED Program Coordinator

 

Many of our teen moms start our GED Program with the preconceived idea that they are not smart.

Their parents, boyfriends and even teachers tell them they are not good enough, they are stupid, or they can’t do it.

These messages are incredibly damaging to their confidence, outlook on school and ability to learn. And they create a fixed mindset.

Carol Dweck, a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, has studied the power of mindset. She explains why it’s not just abilities and talents that bring success – outcomes depend on whether a person approaches their goals with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, anyone can improve their performance and reach their personal and professional goals.

In her book, Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, Dweck writes, “The growth mindset lets people – even those who are targets of negative labels – use and develop their minds fully.”

The GED Program at Hope House of Colorado is unique because we offer one-on-one tutoring instead of the typical classroom setting. This allows our tutors to meet the students where they are at, focusing on areas that are difficult for them.

This approach also allows our tutors and teen moms to form meaningful relationships. The teen moms feel more comfortable asking questions, suggesting ideas and even making mistakes when they aren’t in front of a large group. They build in confidence when they know their thoughts are valued.

We give our girls the high expectation of earning their GED paired with positive messages of support and encouragement. It can take time, but the girls begin to change to a growth mindset. They start to believe in themselves and their ability to learn and successfully earn their GED.

Studying and passing the GED is not an easy task, and our teen moms still struggle. Yes, there are tests that aren’t passed. But to encourage a growth mindset, we value determination to succeed even when it’s difficult, perseverance after failed tests, and hard work.

Earning a GED is a huge stepping stone for our teen moms who are working toward self-sufficiency; however, determination, perseverance and hard work is what will make them truly successful in the future as they move on to continuing education programs, future careers, and life in general.

 

What does a change in mindset look like?

Danielle’s story is, unfortunately, not unique or even rare.

“School isn’t for everyone.”  This seemingly harmless comment, made by one of her high school teachers, made a lasting and detrimental impact on Danielle as a young woman.

The good news is that when Danielle came to our GED Program, she was full of determination. However, haunted by former experiences and comments, she lacked confidence in her abilities. She assumed she would be met at Hope House with the same passive teaching approach and doubts in her potential for success. Danielle was also extremely uncomfortable asking questions or for help when she needed it. With these dynamics in place, her learning process was very slow.

However, motivated by her daughter and her desire to finish school, Danielle continued to come to class and felt a connection with one of our tutors. Soon she became more comfortable during their tutoring sessions and even asked the tutor if she would be her mentor.

Changes were being made in how Danielle perceived herself. She was beginning to view herself as a student. She began to find joy in learning, and then she started passing tests. Some topics were more difficult than others, but she didn’t give up.

Today Danielle is a student who is confident in her capacity to learn and recall information for tests, her ability to critically read and identify important information, and her skills in reasoning why a particular answer makes sense. She encourages other teen moms in our GED Program to keep working hard, and shares that they, too, can succeed.

While working toward her high school equivalency certification, Danielle’s growth mindset expanded to other areas of her life, and her diligence is paying off. She recently started working with career mentors to start her own photography business. Her teachable spirit as well as her willingness to listen to constructive criticism and then apply it to her work is helping her to succeed.

Danielle is an inspiration for the other girls in the program, a role model for her daughter, and a testament of working hard to accomplish your goals! And she is a powerful example of the power of mindset.