For two summers now, I've had the privilege of coaching my son's traveling baseball team. The summer of 2016 was the starting point. We started every practice talking about how we expect to make mistakes and mistakes are good. That's how we know we're trying to get better. As coaches and parents, we wanted to establish a growth mindset as a team right away by focusing on the PROCESS of learning baseball. However, it didn't take long before the kids began focus on the final PRODUCT.
Throughout the first game, several of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders were asking, "Are we winning?" Most of the fields we played at did not have scoreboards, so they felt the need to constantly ask. "That doesn't matter right now. Let's focus on the things we work on in practice," we would tell them even though anyone watching the game knew that we were way behind.
We continued to have conversations about how learning is a process. Games are just the opportunities that allow us to test our learning so we know how to adjust our practices. The games are NOT the final products of our learning.
After our sixth double-header of the season (and our sixth double-header loss of the season), I quickly glanced at the runs column in our scorebook on my walk to the post-game huddle, and I noticed a pattern from the first game to the most recent one.
"Ok, boys. Take a knee. How do you guys think we're doing so far this season?" Several of the kids mentioned that we are hitting the ball better. Some mentioned that the other teams are scoring a lot more. "You're both right, but we've been saying all season long: Wins and losses don't matter right now. We're still learning. But I just noticed something that I want to share with you." I opened the scorebook to the first game and begin to list off how many runs we have scored in each game. "1st game, 0. 2nd game, 0. 3rd...2!" I look at them and read that number slowly for effect. "4th game...4! 5th game...8!" I continue to read the numbers that continue to be higher with each game trying to emphasize with my voice that the numbers continue this growth.
"So what does this tell us?" I ask.
"We are definitely getting better," one kid responds.
"How are we getting better?"
"We're scoring more runs," the same kid replies.
"And how do you score more runs?"
A different kid answers this time. "By hitting the ball more and running hard."
"Have we worked on those in practice?" They all nod their heads. "Boys, we've lost every game. Does that mean we're not good at baseball?" They all shook their heads no. "What could we work on more in practice?"
One kid spoke with enthusiasm."Stopping the ball when it's hit and throwing them out. That way they don't get more runs than us."
I smiled and said, "Then I think that's exactly what we'll do."
Not only did we end up winning our first game by the end of the season, I never once heard a kid ask again, Are we winning? Because you are winning when you focus on Process over Product.
Professionally Driven educators, understand this when it comes to their own learning even as adults. It's essential to developing our own growth mindset, and it's easy to become distracted by focusing on final product alone. We definitely can't ignore it, but we can certainly redirect our focus on process instead. If we do this, our students will reap the rewards.