The mindset shift that happens at River Oak Academy (ROA) with the children is two-fold:
1) Shifting from a fixed mindset (I’m just not good at math) to a growth mindset (I can learn anything, and I can work extra hard in math.)
2) Shifting from a victim mindset (This isn’t fair!) to a hero mindset (I can help fix this problem).
For parents, a mindset shift happens, too. Unfortunately, our mental shifting happens slower and with more angst than our children’s. It’s simply because our thought patterns are more entrenched, often as experiences during our childhood. We’ve been working hard to survive and our brains have adjusted accordingly. This begins to call into question our thought processes and this feels, at a minimum, uncomfortable; and at some moments, excruciating.
But the shift does indeed happen for those who stay in the game. And it’s more freeing and exciting than anything we’ve ever imagined. It just takes time and vulnerability. As well as surrounding yourself with other parents who are willing to grow and learn too.
Mindset shifts are equivalent to heavy-duty learning.
Real learning is hard and there are no shortcuts.
Shift #1: Shifting from wishing River Oak had all the bells and whistles of a traditional school to understanding there are trade-offs at every school – there is no utopia.
Being a River Oak parent isn’t easy. It takes courage to be on the cutting edge of educational transformation. We are not an educational Utopia. Human beings and communities are too messy and complex to hope for perfection, so life in the studio can be messy and the culture must constantly be rebuilt just like in the real world.
The learner-driven approach isn’t a panacea, but it does provide a garden for creativity and growth.
Shift #2: Shifting from worrying that my child isn’t progressing fast enough and delivering the highest quality work to trusting the process even when it’s messy and takes time.
Bucking societal norms and trends feels hard and awkward because we've evolved to go with the flow and go along to get along, etc. But the pace of change has outpaced our ability to evolve and adapt, so to prepare for a world we don't know, we have to let go of what we currently know. This is very difficult for parents to do. Some parents have drawn their child's path before they were born - if they go to the right preschool to the right ivy league university, then they can have a good life. As if we know what a good life is or have the right to decide it for them.
We want to nurture in our children a sense of genuine accomplishment with every challenge, however long that may take. We know that mistakes, failures and trials build courage, resilience and grit one lesson at a time. Showing mastery, practicing what they learned in a relevant, real-world application, authentically learning is our goal.
Shift #3: Shifting from stepping in as my child’s problem-solver to trusting my child to solve problems and being their #1 cheerleader.
It is counterintuitive to watch our child struggle. On any given day, our children will come home upset about someone being unkind, a system being unfair, or a challenge being too hard or too easy and our knee-jerk reaction will be to step in and remove the struggle. Being an ROA parent means realizing that our job isn’t to make our children’s lives as easy as possible; but instead to stand nearby offering our support by listening to them and observing the wipeouts and wonders of our child’s own personal discovery and recovery.
There’s no skill more essential to our children’s future success than problem solving—and that’s true no matter how we define success. It’s so important that it has been identified as the #1 skill people will need to thrive in the workforce of the future.
Children learn through experiencing chances to try, fail and learn from all outcomes. If we control the experiences, or if we unwittingly project some of our own insecurities, children not only miss the chance to gain experience, they also learn from us that they do not have what it takes to tackle and solve problems.
The children hold up mirrors to us and we can choose whether to look into them and grow, or look away and remain stuck in our old ways.
The choice is ours, the work is ours.