One goal. One family.

By Rusty Graham
Senior Writer, Spring Branch ISD

Reaching Spring Branch ISD’s T-2-4 goal of doubling students’ success rate in post-secondary training and education requires a change in mindset throughout the district.

From administrators to custodians, from teachers to bus drivers and cafeteria workers, from principals to parents, Duncan emphasized at 2014 Convocation that everyone involved with students should have a growth mindset, one that fosters the potential of the individual and emphasizes the value of hard work in the pursuit of dreams and expectations.

“We have to maximize what we do with kids every day,” Duncan, SBISD Superintendent said. “We can help students do more than they thought possible.”

Spring Branch ISD’s T-2-4 goal – which challenges the district to double the number of students who successfully complete a technical certification, military training, two-year or four-year degree – requires the Spring Branch “family” to embrace a growth mindset.

“I believe SBISD is the only district in the country with a single goal (of post-secondary success),” said Duncan, “bringing everyone together for a single purpose.”

Based on the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset challenges the notion of the fixed mindset, which assumes that one is born with whatever intelligence one has, that’s built on winners and losers, of success and failure.

A growth mindset, conversely, supposes that a person’s true potential is unknown, that effort and hard work matter and that people can change and grow. And often all it takes are simple phrases, small words that can have the largest effect.

Northbrook High School alumna and 2010 salutatorian Carolina Rangel knows well the power of those small phrases.

Carolina, the first from her family to go to college, will graduate from Texas A&M in May with a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in taxation, and has a job waiting for her with Ernst and Young.

Carolina told Spring Branch staff gathered for convocation on Aug. 15 that after moving to Spring Branch from Mexico at age 7, she spoke no English and was often made fun of, begging her parents to take her back to Mexico. But a Ridgecrest Elementary teacher pushed her to learn English, taking her out of bilingual classes before she thought she was ready.

“This was such a frightening thought because I did not feel ready at all, but she pushed me and gave me no choice,” Carolina said. “Even though it was a difficult year, I am so glad Ms. Sanchez pushed me because I learned so much and it prepared me for middle school.”

And it was at Landrum Middle School that she first heard the simple phrase “why not?”. Art teacher Andres Batista pushed her to be her best, she said, with those two words: “why not”. “His ‘why not’ changed my thinking completely,” said Carolina. “I couldn’t have (her accomplishments) without teacher support and ‘why not’.”

Then at Northbrook High, a teacher asked her during her junior year where she was going to college – “not if, but where,” said Carolina. That difference pushed her to consider college when she hadn’t before. “Thank you, teachers, for asking all the right questions,” she said. “Always remember that you make a difference … because sooner or later we (students) will remember. You’re all role models.”

Duncan used Carolina’s story to point out that conversations about students’ post-secondary success need to start before 11th grade: “We need to start much earlier,” he said.

And while academic preparation is critical in getting students ready for post-secondary work, character development may be just as important, particularly grit – the notion of overcoming adversity, of breaking through obstacles, of sticking with a task and finishing.

Jonathan Martinez, a 2014 Stratford graduate who will be studying architecture at the University of Texas at Austin this fall, told the story of his grandfather, an immigrant from Mexico, orphaned at 8 and who became a tailor who brought his family to the United States for a better life.

His grandfather moved first to Chicago, then Houston, setting up shop and building his business through word-of-mouth. “My grandfather wasn’t a great man because of the things he accomplished,” Jonathan said. “He was a great man because of the way he lived. He made people feel special.” Jonathan told teachers that they have the power to unleash the potential in their students.

“Children are the future but it starts with you,” he said. “I don’t believe you understand how much potential is in this room.” he told the staff gathered at Don Coleman Coliseum. “Do not underestimate your potential, and most importantly the potential you can unlock in a student. Do not underestimate the power you possess as a family.”

Stratford Assistant Principal Laura Ragsdale Villaflor said that as a teen, she was taken with Ayn Rand’s book “The Fountainhead” and its theme of the individual above the collective, seeing Howard Roark as something of a hero. “But now, I teach to serve, and I want other people to help me,” she said, noting that one’s strengths are often another’s weakness, and vice versa.

Like geese flying in a “V” formation, where the mutual flapping of wings makes the flight easier for all, where geese honk to encourage the others and where the leader swaps out with another bird when she gets tired, it’s about one goal, one family.

Duncan said that the Spring Branch family’s mindset:
  • Sets high expectations, and helps kids believe they can achieve them
  • Believes in the kids being taught
  • Believes that every role is critical – the goal can’t be reached without everyone working together
  • Believes that the best decisions are made closest to the action
  • TEAM beats individual
  • Believes that to teach or lead requires trust “Every moment counts,” he said.
“Take the time to do what matters most. See your students from a growth mindset.”


Post a Comment