Transforming Mindsets: Cultivating Resilience In Students With Kate Parish

Transforming Mindsets: Cultivating Resilience In Students With Kate Parish

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Are you seeking effective ways to shape resilient mindsets in your students?

Then join us as we explore the transformative impact of mindset teaching in our latest episode of School Behaviour Secrets, with our guest Kate Parish. Discover science-backed strategies to influence your teaching and empower children to manage their own thoughts and emotions, and navigate classroom challenges with resilience and determination.

Important links:

Visit Kate Parish's website 'The Mind Gig'

Kate's Facebook page

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:00  

When working with kids who give up quickly have low resilience or low self esteem, and you're seeing that affect their potential, both in terms of their learning and their behaviour, then this episode is perfect for you. We're going to share a new approach to teaching growth mindsets to help kids overcome those barriers. That is completely different to the way that growth mindsets have been presented to students in the past, and we're going to give you strategies for using this approach in your classroom. All for free. Let's play the intro music. 

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to today's episode of school behaviour secrets. While other educational podcasts would be like a graceful hummingbird delicately sampling the nectar of important behaviour related topics. We'd be more like a heron, Bandy legged, disliked by all the other birds harbinger of chaos, Lord only knows how we get off the ground, and living life with  an attitude that says, I'm going to eat all the koi carp from your pond in the back garden and I don't care how much they cost you. Bosh!

Emma Shackleton  1:39  

Oh, Simon, really?

Simon Currigan  1:41  

I don't know what I was eating before I wrote that, I just got carried away. And that's the voice of my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma. 

Emma Shackleton  1:46  

Hi, Simon. Hi.

Simon Currigan  1:48  

I want to kick off today's show by asking you a quick question. It's not about herons. So don't worry, 

Go on, then go for it. 

Can you tell me about a mistake that you've made in your life and what you learned from it?

Emma Shackleton  1:58  

Okay, that's a bit deep. But here we go. Well, actually, I'm too scared to reveal any of my really big mistakes live on air. But one thing I have thought about a lot lately is how most of us are working really hard and really fast. And we're making lots of little mistakes all of the time. And I'm actually starting to make peace with that and realise that that's okay. Mistakes are part of what makes us human. And I think the more important thing to focus on is what happens after a mistake. So what happens when we realise that we've made a mistake? How do we own it or fix it and move on, rather than dwelling on the mistake and feeling bad about it? I also think that if you stick in your comfort zone, you might not make a lot of mistakes. But when you push yourself out of that comfort zone, that's where the mistakes and the magic happen. Anyway, why are you asking about mistakes?

Simon Currigan  2:58  

So this week, we're sharing my conversation with Kate Parish from The Mind Gig. And it's all about fixed and growth mindsets. And having a growth mindset is all about being open to making those mistakes and appreciating that they're part of the process of learning, and being able to learn from them and not see them as failures. Kate, though, has a really interesting neuroscience twist, about how we teach and encourage children to have a growth mindset that can make the teaching of it more successful.

Emma Shackleton  3:27  

That's really interesting. In our work as beacon school support, we do a lot of support for schools in Birmingham and the West Midlands. And we really are seeing a lot of children more than ever, I would say, who are finding it really hard to attempt work or stick at work. And sometimes what's happening is they're so scared of making a mistake or so scared of failing that they would rather avoid attempting doing the work all together. And we're seeing that right across the board. So I think this episode is something that will really resonate with lots of our listeners. And if you're a listener who's teaching children who experience really strong emotions when they make a mistake with their work, or if they get something wrong, or it's not perfect, we've got a free download that could help. It's called How to help children manage anger, and other strong emotions. And you can get your resource directly from our website, we'll put a direct link in the episode description. So all you've got to do is open your podcast app. And as you're listening, you'll be able to click directly through to our website to get your copy. But obviously don't do that. If you're driving right now,

Simon Currigan  4:42  

We don't want to cause a pileup on the M6 because someone was driving at 70 miles per hour and were super eager to get a hold of that free download. Although to be fair, we live in Birmingham and if you're getting up to 70 miles an hour on the M6 you are you doing pretty well. One last thing well you've got your podcast open don't forget to subscribe to the show. So you never miss another episode. Now picture this, you hit that subscribe button and suddenly you feel as carefree as a monkey with a lifetime supply of bananas, your worries will vanish. You'll have a newfound zest for life. And you'll have soaring potassium levels like our tree dwelling primate friends, what's not to love, hit that subscribe button.

Emma Shackleton  5:18  

And now here's Simon's interview with Kate Parish.

Simon Currigan  5:23  

I'm super excited to welcome Kate Parish to the show. Kate is a qualified primary school teacher, mindfulness and neuro linguistic practitioner. She's also trained in understanding mental health, Understanding Autism, challenging behaviour, life coaching, and is a growth mindset advocate. With over 20 years experience working within the education and training sector. Kate founded The Mind Gig when she saw that support for mental health within schools was lacking. And now she works to help strengthen, support and sustain good mental health for children and adults alike. Kate, welcome to the show.

Kate Parish  5:58  

Thanks, Simon. It's great to be here.

Simon Currigan  6:00  

It's an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. And you're going to talk about a topic that I'm really, really interested in. So this should be a good conversation, you have an interesting neuroscience twist on teaching children about growth mindsets. But before we get to that, for people who are new to the subject, can you talk a little bit about what we actually mean by the terms, Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset?

Kate Parish  6:23  

Yeah, sure. Well, having a growth mindset, in essence means freedom. So basically, it means you persevere in the face of challenge, you don't see challenge as a threat. And you also don't see failure as a threat. So if you fail at something, you actually see it as a first step to success, which just means that you're more likely to take on any challenges, you're more likely to strive for success, because you know that there are going to be bumps in the road. And that's okay. Whereas a fixed mindset is actually quite limiting. So a fixed mindset is where you actively avoid challenge because you're quite frightened of failure. So you want to stay away from that failure as much as you can, which means avoiding challenge, which therefore means avoiding striving to the next step, in essence, and if you have a fixed mindset, you're also quite threatened by other people's success, which is quite difficult in today's world of social media, because on social media, everybody is deemed to be so successful, so outwardly perfect. Now, we know that in real life, this isn't the case. But if you have a fixed mindset, you will see that as a threat, you'll see that as you're never going to be able to match those people. So why bother trying? So actually, nowadays, having a growth mindset is becoming more and more important. Now that we are surrounded by all of these wonderful images of everybody else's life? 

Simon Currigan  7:57  

It sounds as if having a fixed mindset is quite limiting in many aspects, academically, socially. So what is the impact that we might see in school on someone who has a fixed mindset in terms of their learning outcomes and their overall sort of success in school? Because success in school is wider than just grades in exams?

Kate Parish  8:15  

Yes, sure, absolutely. So if you've got a fixed mindset, and you're going through your education life, you're always going to look for the easy way out. So you're never going to take those challenges, which means it's going to get you to the next level, you might still pass exams, because you might find exams easy. Some people believe that growth mindset and fixed mindset has to do with intelligence. And it's absolutely not, you can have a growth mindset, but fail every exam that you ever take, you can have a fixed mindset and pass every exam you ever take, because you find it easy. So if you have a fixed mindset throughout your school life, you're only going to do things that you find easy, which then means that when you come into the real world looking for jobs, looking for a career, you're only going to choose a path that is easy, not necessarily the path that you are going to be the happiest with.

Simon Currigan  9:14  

When we're thinking about kids in the classroom. What might mark a child out in terms of the behaviours that we see the actions that they take that might indicate to us this child has a fixed mindset, as opposed to what might we see from our kids who have a more oriented towards a growth mindset?

Kate Parish  9:29  

Yeah, that's a great question when I was teaching, so if you were teaching a group of pupils, you would identify a fixed mindset and a growth mindset fairly quickly, because a fixed mindset would look very much like they wouldn't take feedback very well. So if they had got something wrong, which everybody does, even if you were asking them to change it in a positive way, they would still not take this in a good light. They would try and come up with every excuse possible. All to say why they got it wrong it was because of the noise it was because somebody else interrupted them, there's always going to be an excuse. Whereas a growth mindset, you would see very quickly these children that give feedback to who take the advice on board, and then strive to improve their work, and then feel really proud to come and show you the new edited version. So they haven't taken your advice as criticism, they've taken it as a great way to move forward. Whereas some children would see anything that they have done wrong, you know, it would floor them, it would take them right back down to the beginning. And they just wouldn't want to do it again, because they been so negatively affected by it.

Simon Currigan  10:44  

It sounds like a growth mindset is kind of essential. If you're going to be resilient and make improvements in your life. Like you say, you might not pass the exam. But actually, if you are going to make improvements and stick with things and be resilient and see things through to the end, it sounds like it's an absolute core plank of your kind of psychological house if that's not a terrible metaphor?

Kate Parish  11:03  

No, absolutely. The word resilient is a perfect word to use there, Simon, actually, because if you have a growth mindset, you are more resilient in the face of life's challenges. Like you say, you fail an exam, fine, you're going to either find another way around to get you to where you want to be, or you're going to accept that perhaps that wasn't your path. Let's look for another path. But what you're not going to do is you're not going to let it stop you. Whereas a fixed mindset approach to failing an exam would say that is enough not doing it anymore. And you might not even look for another way to reach your goal. It might be a case of that goal is unachievable, I'm not doing it anymore.

Simon Currigan  11:45  

So that's what fixed mindsets and growth mindsets are on a kind of their impact on children's ability to make progress and succeed in school. Can you talk a little bit about how schools have been teaching the philosophy of a growth mindset to children in the last 10 or 15 years?

Kate Parish  11:59  

Yes. So when I was teaching, I'm currently out of the classroom at the moment, because I'm focusing more on The Mind Gig and wanting to get into schools that way. But when I was actually teaching growth mindset started to be a big buzzword when I first started training, and you needed to teach children what growth mindset is, and how perseverance in the face of challenge is really important. And you did we taught what growth mindset is, we taught what you need to be able to have a growth mindset. And we taught why growth mindset was important. But what I never saw when I was teaching was I never actually saw the impact of this teaching. So I never actually saw anybody change their mindset, because I told them to. So I never saw that just because I told them what a growth mindset was. I didn't actually ever see any child change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. And it just got me thinking, what is missing here? I'm teaching them what a growth mindset looks like. And I'm teaching them why it's so important. But actually, what I'm not teaching is any form of skill to be able to give them a growth mindset. So that is the area that I thought was fundamentally missing. And that is where we've added our neuroscience twist in. So the science behind growth mindset.

Simon Currigan  13:23  

I think we should say as well work on growth mindsets if I'm right began with the work of Carol Dweck.

Kate Parish  13:28  

Yes. So she was the first pioneer in it. Obviously, there's lots of people before that who have you know, psychologists who have looked into the importance of resilience, but Carol Dweck was the big one who came into schools. And her work is absolutely amazing. You know, it really taught teachers what they were looking for, it helped students to be able to see what a growth mindset is. But I was still not seeing huge changes, I still wasn't seeing children go out, "you know what, yes, I'll just change my mindset", because that's not actually how it works. You've got to tell children, what is happening in their brains for them to be able to see. So if you do this, this will change your mindset.

Simon Currigan  14:10  

Okay, let's get into the neuroscience. Can you tell us a little bit about your approach to teaching kids about growth mindset in a way that will change attitudes and behaviour?

Kate Parish  14:20  

Yeah, sure. So it all actually starts with recognising your thoughts. So when you have a thought, if you keep thinking about that thought, it grows every 10 seconds, and you keep thinking about it, it grows again every 10 seconds. And the bigger that that thought gets, the more power it has over you. So it will influence how you feel it will influence how you behave and it will then in turn, reinforce that thought. So the more you think about a thought, the more you actually let it have the power over you. 

Simon Currigan  14:54  

And can that be positive or negative thinking? 

Kate Parish  14:56  

Yes, absolutely. So positive thoughts will grow bigger, and they can have power over you. And negative thoughts will grow bigger and they can have the power over you. But where growth mindset is concerned, So you first of all teach that the thoughts that you have will influence how you feel, and they will get bigger. And you also teach that neural pathways get bigger and stronger through repetition. So the more we do something, the more our neural pathways get stronger. And that includes when we fail. So the more we do something, we are going to fail in some of those times, but our neural pathways are still getting stronger through practice. And this then can change your mindset because it helps you to see that you have to practice at something, even if you find it difficult to be able to strengthen the neural pathways in your brain, you also need to teach children that their amygdala in their brain that will come into play if your negative thoughts gain too much traction. So if they get too big, your amygdala is going to step in, and it's going to say, right, get out of here, run away. And actually we can teach children how to be able to manage their thoughts, how to look at them, how to identify when they're helping them. And we teach them strategies to be able to minimise the negative thoughts. And then to change these into a more positive outlook.

Simon Currigan  16:25  

When you talk about the amygdala. They're sort of getting in the way of the process. Can you talk about what is the amygdala and what is impact is?

Kate Parish  16:30  

Yes, so the amygdala is our fight or flight response. And our brain wants to keep us safe. That's its primary purpose, but it's not interested in our happiness. So the primary purpose of our brain is to keep us safe. So our amygdala, whenever we start to feel nervous, worried or stressed, our amygdala is going to step in, it's going to shut down the other areas of our brain. So our thinking part of our brain and our memories, and it's going to take all of the oxygen for ourselves, it's going to make our heartbeat faster to send all the oxygen to our limbs, to make us run away from this situation. Now, that's great when a sabre toothed tiger is chasing us or when we're in any form of physical danger. But actually, in instances, when you start to feel nervous before an exam, or before an event or before, something that you've got to do, there are ways to be able to calm the amygdala down so that the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus can wake up again, you get the oxygen back to them, so that they can make a rational decision. So it's not about never being sad, or never being worried or never being scared or nervous, because we are all going to feel those things. At certain times. It's about knowing when you do feel those things, how to actually overcome them to get the best out of the situation that you're in.

Simon Currigan  17:56  

So when you're talking to kids, and you're explaining this neuroscience, you know, when we engage in action repeatedly or thought repeatedly, that neural pathway gets stronger and stronger. How does that link help them? How does that self knowledge help them then take on do you think the growth mindset?

Kate Parish  18:12  

So it helps them to see that their brain is always working for them and working to keep them safe, but it also helps them to see that their brain and their thoughts are not the be all and end all. They have the final say. So it's about helping children to recognise that when a thought pops into their head, it's not fact, it's a thought that has come from what's happened towards what has led up to that situation, it is not actually fact. And we are in charge of our thoughts, not our brain. And by teaching them the neuroscience behind this, it enables them to actually help the amygdala to stand down because you're saying thanks for raising that brain. Thank you for bringing that to the forefront of my attention. However, I've got this, and I'm going to take it from here. So just that little bit of understanding that their brain is there to help them. It's there, it's got their back. But at the same time, they do have the power to override certain thoughts that the brain might be recurringly giving them. 

Simon Currigan  19:19  

And as we talk about this, we're using some quite complex language and people listening might think to themselves, well, this is probably only suitable for much older children, but actually younger kids love learning this stuff. They love the long words. Younger kids love this stuff don't they?

Kate Parish  19:33  

Yes, you've hit the nail on the head there actually because there's been quite a lot of research in literacy about how we tend to dumb down language for younger children. And actually younger children. You tell them a word, they will grasp it. Now we do change some of the language obviously because we do start this learning in nursery. So we do change the way that it's taught and the language there. But as soon as we get to Key Stage One, Key Stage Two, the language gets thrown in there, but just in a fun way, and we do songs about it. And we actually just teach them what the word is. And they repeat it. And that's it. You know, they know that word.

Simon Currigan  20:11  

Can you give us an example or a story of a child you've worked with, or a class where you've seen the impact of this approach has had.

Kate Parish  20:19  

Yes. So one particular girl who stands out for me was when I was teaching a year six class, a girl came into my class, she was a bright spark wonderful personality, lots of friends, you know, she was a model student, she'd flown through her school life, everything was great. She took on challenges she was, you know, hard working. But year six started to get a little bit tough. And she started to not be able to take on those challenges, she started to shy away from them, because she was actually getting some things wrong. And she wasn't used to it. So some of her friends who had always sort of been in her shadow, and you know, we're quite used to getting things wrong. They were taking on the year six challenges really, really well, and really striving and grasping these new concepts. And she wasn't. And each time she didn't grasp a concept, she stopped trying, she couldn't bear the failure, because it was actually something that she wasn't used to. And it really, really made me see here the importance of growth, mindset versus intelligence, because she was an intelligent girl. But she was struggling with her growth mindset, because she'd always found things easy. And then as soon as things were starting to get tough, she didn't have that growth mindset to be able to take it to the next step. Whereas her peers who actually they were quite used to getting things wrong. To be perfectly honest, they developed a growth mindset over the years of failure and struggle, they were actually taking on these new challenges with vigour and getting things right. Now, I then worked with her on the neuroscience behind this. So I explained to her what was happening in her brain, and why she was wanting to run away from this. So why she was actually wanting to leave the work behind and not try and not challenging it was because her amygdala was trying to help her and trying to get her out of the situation. And she just took this all on, and actually really, really loved the thought that by even when you get things wrong, your brain is still growing and getting stronger, because your neural pathways are developing, it takes about 100 repetitions, to actually then become a habit. And this sort of knowledge about why she was feeling the way that she was feeling just really helped her, it really helped her to work on changing her mindset, and to work on swapping those thoughts that she was having about her not being good enough to being I can't do this yet.

Simon Currigan  23:02  

This actually strikes home for me at the moment, actually, my daughter, as we record this not too long ago, she took her GCSEs. And obviously after lockdown, the grade boundaries have now gone up back to where they were, the exams felt harder, or more difficult. And if you walk into a difficult test or exam, whether you're going to pass it or failure, but if you walk in with the attitude of having a fixed mindset is, oh, my goodness, I can't do this, then you are not going to be able to demonstrate your knowledge in the same way as someone with a growth mindset that says, Oh, this looks hard. You know, I can find a pathway through here. I'm going to stick with it. I'm going to keep going and understanding their brains reaction, they might understand that my brain is trying to protect me by trying to tell me to run away. But actually, what I've learned is that persistence and that resilience, I can make something here.

Kate Parish  23:46  

Yes, absolutely. So if children before they walked into that exam, if they had been given the skills to be able to help their amygdala stand down, such as deep breathing, deep breathing is the biggest one, because deep breathing gets the oxygen back into your brain, which helps wake up your prefrontal cortex helps wake up your hippocampus. And that means it helps wake up your rational thinking. So simple, deep breathing exercises, we teach children hand art, we teach them anything that makes the amygdala stand down, and then your rational thoughts can come back into play. And again, it's not about going into exam not being nervous. It's not about taking the nerves away. It's about being able to handle the nerves, the nerves are going to be there and they're going to stay there throughout the whole exam. That how you handle them. That is up to you. And we teach children strategies to be able to do that.

Simon Currigan  24:45  

This is a fascinating topic. If you are a teacher, a school leader listening to this podcast, or even actually, if you're a parent, we have parents who listen as well. What's the first step you can take today to start helping the pupils you work with or your own child adopt a growth mindset.

Kate Parish  24:59  

So the overriding thing that we start with here is our thoughts. And we start with, we need to teach, and we need to understand that thoughts matter. So when you actually recognise your thoughts, when you start to recognise a thought creeping in, you start to recognise how it influences your feelings, which in turn influence your behaviour, which in turn that reinforces that thought. So we teach things like the grab, look, chuck, which is where children recognise a thought coming into their head, such as I'm not good enough, you grab that thought before it gets bigger. So you grab it as it first comes in, I'm not good enough, right? I'm going to grab that thought, I'm going to look at it, and I'm going to say is it helping me if it's not helping you in that situation, we're going to chuck it. So we do the Grab, Look, Chuck, if the thought is helping you, then Keep it. So it is quite simple as that. And children really do love doing this activity, especially when they get their thoughts, they can write them down, and actually physically throw them in the bin with paper. But again, the important overriding thing here is not to take away any feelings of sadness, worry, anxiety, we want those feelings there, those feelings are fine, we're all going to have them. It's about learning how to deal with them. And it's about learning that your thoughts have power, that you can also do things to be able to minimise that power

Simon Currigan  26:31  

Grab, Look, Chuck, I love that. I absolutely love that, I'm gonna walk away with that. How can our listeners find out more about the way you teach this, your approach and your websites, how to kind of find out more about your resources? 

Kate Parish  26:42  

So we've got a Facebook page, where we put lots of videos on and lots of helpful tips. And that is The Mind Gig. And it's just under The Mind Gig, we also have our website, which has got resources on for parents, children and teachers. And that's There are free resources on there. But there are also courses that you can take as parents, you can take as children, and there's our schools programme that teachers can log on to, and actually see if they like and see if they think that this understanding is really needed in their school. Because we can teach children anything, we can teach them maths, science, we can teach them all of the knowledge. But without your mindset without having a growth mindset. And without having the idea that your thoughts can be managed by yourself, you're not actually going to ever be able to do anything with that learning because you won't have the confidence or the resilience to take it anywhere. So we can all gain knowledge. But actually changing your mindset and having a really good strong growth mindset is really, really invaluable. And it's something that we teach less of in schools, we focus on the knowledge, and we just teach occasionally, when something goes wrong, we might teach a little bit of growth mindset. And I actually believe it should be the other way around. I believe you can take on any knowledge and understanding very, very quickly when you have the right mindset.

Simon Currigan  28:19  

And if you're listening to this podcast while you're driving, or you're at the gym, and you didn't hear those URLs, I will put a copy of all those web addresses in the episode description. So all you got to do is open up your podcast app. And you can click directly through. Kate, we ask this of all our guests, who is the key figure that's influenced you? Or what is the key book that you've read that's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with kids?

Kate Parish  28:43  

So Jon Kabat-Zinn, he's an American professor and mindfulness practitioner, and I read his book, Wherever you go- There you are. And it really, really changed my whole mindset and outlook of life, really, because it made me become more mindful, in my way of thinking. Now, I know we've been discussing a lot here on growth mindset, but mindfulness, and that way of thinking is the start of all of this, really, because if you're able to think more mindfully, if you're able to think in the present, rather than thinking in the past, then your outlook of life is going to be way more positive. And you're going to be able to make better decisions for yourself. And that includes being able to change your mindset, being able to make it more of a growth mindset rather than than a fixed mindset. So your way of thinking the way that you actually manage your thoughts, the way that you deal with things when things go wrong, is really really one of the best things that you can do is to become more mindful in your way of thinking so to actually find positives even in really, really awful situations. Now a situation might be really terrible it might be there's absolutely no positives in this. That's fine. But as long as you recognise that you are going to come out of this situation at some point, and not allow yourself to become the situation. So mindful thinking and mindfulness is something that I would strongly urge people to have a look into and to really work on for themselves. And then all of these things like growth mindset and recognising that your thoughts are not facts, they all come from that

Simon Currigan  30:35  

Kate, it has been absolutely fascinating. Thank you for giving us your time and being on the show.

Kate Parish  30:40  

Thanks for inviting me. It's been a pleasure, and I've really enjoyed it. 

Emma Shackleton  30:44  

That makes so much sense. I've personally seen how teaching children about how their brain works can be so effective, it really does turbocharge the impact that this information can have

Simon Currigan  30:57  

100% And if you want to find out more about Kate's websites and courses, you'll find direct links in the episode description.

Emma Shackleton  31:04  

Remember, if you find this episode helpful, please share it with one or two colleagues that you think might also benefit from listening in. That means we can get our ideas and strategies to the people who would benefit most from them. As soon as this episode finishes, open up your podcast app, hit the share button and send a direct link by email, messenger or however you normally communicate with your friends. 

Simon Currigan  31:29  

And that's it for today. 

Emma Shackleton  31:31  

So have a great week and we look forward to seeing you next time on School behavior secrets. Bye for now.

Simon Currigan  31:37  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)