When the students of Chandni Langford's fifth-grade class at Evergreen Avenue School in Woodbury, NJ walked into their classroom to take their PARCC standardized tests, they found a wonderful surprise. Each of the 17 students' desks had an encouraging note written by Langford with an easily wipeable dry-erase marker and accompanied by an additional note (and donut hole) from resource teacher Gina Garrison.
The personalized notes all had the hashtag #GrowthMindset, part of the atmosphere of encouragement in Langford's classroom.
A growth mindset focuses on the idea of intelligence as something that can be developed, rather than something that is static. Rather than praising students as "smart," efforts are made to praise them for their hard work and dedication.
"In my classroom, we talk about growth mindset all the time," Langford told A Plus in an interview. "It has come to a point where I don't even have to say anything anymore. ... The kids have really internalized this concept. Last Monday, they were pretty excited to have personalized messages on their desks."
When pictures of Langford's desks made it to Facebook, they quickly went viral.
This year is extra-special for Langford.
"I have been teaching for five years, but this is the first year I've had my own classroom," Langford told us.
But even with just half a decade of experience under her belt, Langford's approach to teaching is making waves.
Responses on Facebook were hugely laudatory, with one commenter writing: "What a way to motivate your students. Why weren't you my teacher? I love you for this! You deserve an award and more teachers should model this approach."
The support doesn't stop there: her students all encourage each other.
"If a student gets frustrated and says something to [the] effect of 'I give up,'" Langford explained to A Plus, "the other kids shout out growth mindset quotes to that student. 'It may take some time and effort,' 'I'm not telling you it's going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it,' and 'I can always improve, I'll keep trying' are a few favorites."
It's a welcome antidote to the stress students experience when faced with the barrage of standardized testing.
The idea for the messages came as more and more students began to express their anxiety over the exams. "Students feared they couldn't go to the 6th grade if they didn't pass the tests," Langford explained to NBC News.
"I think one of my biggest fears is that we sometimes test these kids so much," Langford told us, echoing the sentiment of many of the commenters on the Facebook post. "Let's let them be kids."
All of this comes naturally to Chandni Langford as she continues to follow her calling as a teacher.
"I always loved working with kids, and my mother has been telling me that I would be a great teacher since I was five — she feels super justified this week!" she told us.
"There is nothing else I would rather do in life."
We think her students are all the more fortunate for it.
(H/T: 22 Words)