September 7, 2020

Ten minutes into the first day of virtual 1st grade, Microsoft Team, both the app and on the web-browser crashed. Anne-Sophie, age 6, turned to her father and asked, “Daddy, am I not going to learn anything this year?” Her heart-felt question is one that resonates with many of us right now, from preschoolers to postgraduate students, around our nation and the world. It’s an important question that families, school districts, colleges, and communities are grappling with as schools open, virtually or in-person or with some hybrid of both. 

But I’d like to propose a different version of the question, “What am I learning this year?” It’s a question for all of us, as individuals; and its corollary, “What are we learning this year?” as a community of faith. For learning isn’t limited to those enrolled in schools, it can be a lifelong process, that is, unless we harden our hearts and our minds to anything new or different.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist, has done extensive study on mindset, identifying two different traits, a growth (or open) mindset and a fixed (or closed) mindset. Those with growth mindset are able to be objective about themselves and their knowledge and admit what they do not know. Those with a fixed mindset are emotionally attached to their knowledge and have a hard time disconnecting from themselves, and thus become defensive when challenged or given critical feedback. 

It is true! I recall physical therapy after a hip replacement. The first challenge wasn’t how difficult the exercises were, but to learn the difference between “I can’t” and “I’m not yet able.” The same is true for learning in school, as well as in the school of the Spirit. It takes humility, and a portion of grace, to be object about ourselves and to admit what we don’t know. It requires an attitude of repentance (which means a change of heart and mind).

I suspect that Anne-Sophie and her dad were learning much on that first day of school, how to deal with disappointment, how to be patient, how to be kind, how to be honest and humble, how to ask for help, how to extend love and grace to self and others and how very fragile and vulnerable we feel in this season.  

With prayers that we might live in the grace of growth mindsets. That’s what God is all about! ~ Anne

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