Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
Voice Lessons May 2008

Hello! This past few months I have been working with teachers and parents (and myself) around the topic of resilience. Living in a culture of ‘insta-success’ where everything should be perfect and where no one flounders has made us all a little unrealistic about how much effort it takes to achieve our goals. So the focus of this month's newsletter is on both our internal voice – psyching ourselves up to stay resilient and persistent – and our external voice – how to support ourselves and our students in ‘keepin’ on keepin’ on.’

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Promoting Resilience in Yourself and Others – How Attitude Affects Achievement

With May around the corner, everyone thinking of summer, and most of us having a just a few weeks left in school, I have been spending some time thinking about how we can help each other and our students continue to work to our full potential. How can we persevere, and show up as our best selves as the school year comes to an end? How do we keep our sense of discipline and rigor, especially if we are thinking things are ‘wrapped up’ or have a sense that whatever we do from here on out might not make that much of an impact at this point? This type of thinking is prevalent around this time and it doesn’t serve.

At moments like this, positive self-talk for ourselves and for our students really matters. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, has written a book about this very topic. Dweck’s book, Mindset, is an incredibly readable study of two mindsets – the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. In a nutshell, most of us fall into two categories in terms of how we perceive our abilities – either that we have the smarts (or not), or that through our effort we can increase them. Her research on how living in the growth mindset will ultimately help us succeed is validating work for those of us who work with students – we need to teach them that their effort (and ours) will make a difference.

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The fixed mindset can sound like this:

  • Either I am smart or I am not

  • One is born with a certain amount of intelligence and I don’t have enough

  • Smart is making no mistakes, going fast, and about the outcome being perfect

  • Failure isn’t an action - it is an identity – I just don’t fail, I am a failure

  • If I fail, I might not just be judged, but I might actually be unlovable

At this time of the school year, the idea of ‘giving up’ sounds awfully tempting. And for those of us who ‘default’ to the fixed mindset, the overwhelm that happens now can really push us to not push.

The growth mindset is a more optimum frame of mind to be in, not only at this point in the school year, but all year. It can sound like this:

  • I believe effort is a positive, constructive force

  • Growing and progress are important to me – not just the product or outcome

  • I can substantially change, stretch, and grow

  • Challenge is good

  • Being on my learning edge is the smart thing to do

This way of looking at the world seems so logical when I put it out like this. So why don’t we live here?

  • The larger society has said for such a long time that “success is about being more gifted than others, that failure does measure you, and that effort is for those who can’t make it on talent.” (Dweck)

  • We don’t talk about vulnerability and struggle as good things – in our ‘insta-success’ society everything must sound “Great!” It just isn’t comfortable to admit we are having a hard time.

  • It is hard for many of to sit with someone who is struggling or trying to cope.  

What can we do to foster the growth mindset?

  • As writer/educator Denise Clark Pope, author of Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students, has said, we can live in a ‘culture of redemption and revision.’

  • We can work with Martin Seligman’s concepts from Learned Optimism and think of failures or struggles as short-term, localized moments over which we do have control.

  • We can deliberately and consciously teach ourselves, and our students, the habit of mind of persistence. (More information on this topic to be found in the books on Habits of Mind by Art Costa and Bena Kallick.)

  • Have conversations in which we ask ourselves:

    • What mistake did I make today that taught me something?

    • What did I try hard at today?

    • What did I do today that I struggled with and what did I learn?

Helping students and ourselves to end the school year with continued effort and strength is a goal worth striving for.

If you’d like to have more information about how to effectively praise for effort and live in the growth mindset more effectively, please contact me. We can organize a parent or educator training on this topic in your school, district or organization.

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Cool Resources

  • For a big shift in perspective and mindset, I encourage you to check out the website, – the site is a treasure of “inspired talks by the world’s greatest thinkers and doers” – to start, check out both Sir Ken Robinson’s 19 minute talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” and Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk entitled, “A Stroke of Insight.” So short and so powerful.

  • For a push out of the present and into the future check out the Map of Educational Forces 2006-2016 published by KnowledgeWorks Foundation. The map outlines societal changes that are going to impact all sectors of society, including the area of education. This map is free, thought provoking, and accessible at

Upcoming Events

Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!

May 1
Having Hard Conversations
Peer Assistance and Review Coaches and Administrators

San Francisco Unified School District
San Francisco, CA

May 9
Being Generationally Savvy
CA Math Council Executive Board Retreat
Riverside, CA

May 13
Being Generationally Savvy
Stanford Graduate School of Business Administrative Staff
Stanford, CA

For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.

Until next time,


Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to

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© 2008 Jennifer Abrams | Email Jennifer | 4290 Wilkie Way #L, Palo Alto, CA 94306 |  (650) 858-0699


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