Friday, February 20, 2015

Dancing all over the fixed mindset

"There's something curious about professors in my experience -- not all of them, but typically, they live in their heads. They live up there, and slightly to one side. They're disembodied, you know, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads. Don't they? It's a way of getting their head to meetings. If you want real evidence of out-of-body experiences, get yourself along to a residential conference of senior academics, and pop into the discotheque on the final night. And there, you will see it. Grown men and women writhing uncontrollably, off the beat. Waiting until it ends so they can go home and write a paper about it." - from
The thing about a true growth mindset, is that we do not just apply it when it suits us. Sometimes we revert to a fixed mindset in different circumstances. Where academic learning is concerned, my growth mindset it is safe to say, is fairly embedded. However, in the case of physical activity, I often find myself in the neighbourhood of the fixed mindset. Excuses like "I don't have sporty clothes",  "I don't have time" and "I am too uncoordinated". Or blaming "work is just keeping me too busy" or "I was just too tired." Whether true or not, the only person that suffers from the blaming and excuses is me.

A friend gave me a book for Christmas. The book is called Giraffes Can't Dance. If you know me, you would know exactly how appropriate this is, tall and spatially challenged (there may or may not be a number of head butting incidents in the past). In fact, very much reminiscent of the passage above from Ken Robinson's famous (must watch) TED talk. However, having the ideas of Carol Dweck's book about growth mindsets firmly on my mind, I thought it was about time I confronted this can't dance thing head on. After all, I love to dance, albeit terribly and at the risk of all those around me. So, Thursday morning I joined in one of the spin (special interest) modules at school. These occur once a week for 90 minutes. Last year I joined in on some Maori classes  at school (post about it here). Despite it being a bit of a challenge, it was well within my normal comfort zone of academic learning. I had strategies in place that I know I could rely on to improve. I knew I would get better with practice and time. Of course, I have very few strategies in place for dance. It is well outside my comfort zone. However, as I walked out of the class at the end of the session, I felt great. Not only had I learnt a few new things about teaching (fabulous dance teacher Sophie and how she utilises the space she teaches in), but I also felt great knowing that I had faced a challenge that makes me feel deeply uncomfortable head on, and publicly.

Of course, through the entire 90 minutes I couldn't get the thought out of my head about what the students might think. But again, that is just a fixed mindset talking, because maybe, just maybe the students might see their teacher actively confront the things she is bad at, and then do something about them, despite the challenge. Or maybe, they might think I'm a total dork. Either way, I'm learning to dance. See you all on the ULearn dance floor in October?! Knowing full well the constant state of flux that the waistline on a pair of jeans can acquire as we get older, it also feels extra good (mentally, definitely mentally) knowing that my super sore muscles since then is further evidence of dancing all over that fixed mindset.

PS: The irony here about academics going home to "write a paper about it" and me writing a blog post about it is not lost on me...