This Teacher's Comments On A Student's Paper Are What Every Kid Needs

We need more Ms. Lims and less bureaucracy in education.

Redditor NO_LAH_WHERE_GOT recently posted a photograph taken by an educator only identified as "Ms. Lim," who teaches in Singapore. Ms. Lim's photograph was of an exchange she had with one of her students who was feeling a little down.

Ms. Lim's words of encouragement are exactly the kind that children need to hear in order to foster a growth mind-set.

Everybody needs a teacher like Ms. Lim in their lives.

The idea of a "growth mind-set" first arose in the early part of the 21st century, when Columbia researcher Carol S. Dweck advanced two ideas of intelligence that influence motivation, and the way that people succeed and learn.

According to Dweck, who published her findings in a study in 2007, there are two theories of intelligence that people generally hold. The first is the idea that intelligence is "fixed": that you are either smart or dumb, that some people are "geniuses" and others are not. In short, fixed mind-set learners feel helpless. Dweck elaborated on the idea in Scientific American, saying,


"The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that's that. I call this a "fixed mind-set." Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so."

The fixed mind-set is what you see in the student's comment about him or herself in blue ink:

"I'm so bad."
"I can't try."
"I'm so bad at everything."

Fixed mind-sets are reinforced with praise like "you're so smart," which focuses on an attribute that the child has no control over — an arbitrary measure of a thing that the child simply is, rather than a set of actions or skills that the child has demonstrated or can acquire. 

The other side of Dweck's theory is that some people adopt a "growth mind-set:" they are "mastery-oriented," believing in the ability to acquire skill sets and knowledge. These children, Dweck wrote in Scientific American

"... think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort or acquirable skills, not fixed ability, they can be remedied by perseverance. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set, we predicted, were destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts."

A growth mind-set is reinforced by praise like "you must have worked really hard" or "you did a great job on that assignment." 

That kind of language empowers children to learn and encourages them to explore and grow. 

Ms. Lim gently adjusts the language of the child's negative self-talk towards those ideas.

Listen to the good voice in your head.

Access your own Ms. Lim when you're feeling down.