It’s hard to spend even a brief moment in the world of education these days without hearing about the importance of “grit” or “resilience” or the role of a “growth mindset” in raising healthy children and adolescents. King School emphasizes self-knowledge, couregous learning, and respectful challenge, which encourage a growth mindset. This mindset leads to students’ achieving their personal best in the classroom, on the stage, and on the athletic fields.

Marnie Sadlowsky, King Associate Head of School for Program, Head of Upper School, adds, “Young people who are more resilient usually have a stronger sense of their ‘self-concept’ or their ‘core of self.’ As we rightly focus on parenting, coaching, teaching, and counseling our adolescents to become resilient, we must realize that a key part of the equation is that adolescents need to have a sense of who they are, what they value and hold dear, and how they in turn can empathize with and play important roles in their families and larger communities.”

At King, expert faculty encourage students to meet challenges head on and learn to say, “I haven’t mastered this skill YET” or “I’m still working on understanding derivatives” rather than “I’m a bad writer” or “I guess I’ll never be good at math.” King teachers understand that it’s not as effective to say, “my goal is to get an A in math” as it is to say, “My goal is to put my phone away when I practice math problems, seek extra help from my teacher regularly, and establish better study habits for larger tests.”

Adolescents who understand that repeated practice requires delayed gratification are often more successful in school and in life. To oversimplify Julie Lythcott-Haims’ work in How to Raise an Adult, learning often requires real challenges, and these challenges do not always feel immediately pleasurable or gratifying. But students who have a growth mindset—who don’t see their abilities as fixed—are more likely to sustain improvement and achievement rates while avoiding the poison of perfectionism. That’s because they’re able to work through discomfort.

One of the primary tasks of adolescence is to individuate, or to experience oneself as an increasingly independent being outside of the primary parent relationship. In order to develop a strong sense of self, adolescents need to feel that the adults in their lives offer a consistent, faithful presence (not a friendship) and a willingness to really get to know them. King understands that relationships between students and teachers are at the core of academic excellence since students who feel known, supported, and safe are able to take appropriate risks that will lead to academic and personal growth. “Learning to be a fearless learner (courageous learner) is such an important skill for students today. At King, we teach that the world is complicated and you can navigate it,” said Ms. Sadlowsky.

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