Growing Hearts by Growing Mindset in The Little Executive! (Review)

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‘Knowledge is power’.

This saying is no longer applicable in our age and time.

To me, knowledge can only become powerful if it is internalised by the mind, convicted in the heart and applied to daily living. However, if it is not used regularly, it is good only for a short while. It is when the knowledge becomes a habit which brings about Life Change – only then, there is power.

As a practitioner of education, I reflect a lot on my teaching. As much as it is a good practice, it will yield greater results if there are authentic feedback given by a third-party. Recently, I was observed by my trainee in class and I did likewise. I believe in a 2 way traffic; trainee learns from me and I learn from my trainee. Interacting with her provided much opportunity for growth. We challenge each other’s ideas, suggest alternatives and reflect on how we can improve in our lessons. In the process, we sharpen each other. – This is the winning factor in The Little Executive.

I had done an introduction of The Little Executive Here.

On hindsight, as a third-party, TLE challenged and sharpened our family’s mindset to grow. It is surprising that in just 3 sessions, TLE has helped us uncover many unconscious areas to unlearn in our parenting home front. Mainly the habits of my children and us, the parents.

What I liked about this programme:

Activities are designed to

  1. Transform my Children’s Fixed Mindsets into a Growth Mindset
  2. Instill Self-awareness and Self-monitoring skills
  3. Cultivate Responsibility
  4. Promote Social Awareness
  5. Strengthen Spatial Awareness and Increase Attention Span
  6. Stretch the Parents’ Mindset

1. Transform my Children’s Fixed Mindsets into a Growth Mindset

TLE exposed my kids to what the brain can do in the first lesson. This introduction did wonders in enlightening the kids on how amazing our brain works. Interestingly, this provided a new understanding of how one can grow ‘smarter’ by doing hard work. My kids related that their brain can grow much more if ‘they make mistakes’. In another session, J found neurons interesting and wanted to know more about them. Ms M fed his curiosity by showing a short video clip on what neurons are. Since my kids are learning about neurons, I had better keep up with them!I found out that

‘Neurons make new connections when you learn something new. These connections become stronger with practice and effort. The more connections, the denser your brain is. The more density the “smarter” you are.’ (Building a Growth Minset School Culture)

In other words, ‘smartness’ can be grown! It is a matter of making that connections repeatedly until the path is trodden till it becomes a carved out route mastering the new challenges. J was really excited that he can become ‘smarter’ by making mistakes and working hard. This is evident by the goal he set for himself.

At the same time, Ms M noted how J became restless and distracted during the brain lesson. She then reminds J to refocus back on her pointing to his eyes,ears and mind. This brings me to the next point.

2. Instill Self-awareness and Self-monitoring skills

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As J has a learning gap in the main area of ‘Impulse control’, (a main factor affecting the rest of his learning) he actually set a goal to ‘pay attention to his teacher in class’ and the goals above. These goal setting exercises provides great opportunities for self- reflection. When it is self-aspired, the ownership is borne by him instead of the parents. At home, I will remind him of the goals he had set for himself. Then he will ‘resign’ his fate to go learn his chinese. Sometimes, he will cheerfully chirp ‘Ok!’ It is a good start in any case.

E shared gleefully that Ms M sprays water on their faces. I discovered from Ms M that she used a spray to help them freshen up. She explained that this act lifts up the mood of the class and also calms them as they take deep breaths. She then proceeds to ask them to think about what they have done and share with her their thoughts. In other words, they are encouraged to become more mindful of their actions, emotions and thoughts.

Something suddenly clicked! I had seen a video some time ago on this calming practice and wondered how this technique can help calm the kids. In our local context, time is precious. Every minute counts. The easiest and most habitual method was to scold or nag the kids to refocus or do work! Ms M’s example gave me much to hope for and inspired me to adopt this relaxing approach with (er hum) not my kids but more urgently, with my pupils in class! These are all so familiar yet unpracticed because it is not something we would do. Now, when I see it practiced in TLE, it drives closer to home.

I joked if only I could have a sprinkler in my classroom which I can activate to shower them! ; P  It occurred to me that the mood of the class was majorly affected by the physical senses. Of course, instead of spraying my pupils, I decided to apply the method I had seen demonstrated by Cassie Stephens. I asked my pupils to rub their hands and place them on their eyes to calm the noise instead of yelling. It worked like a charm in general. All these however, are just beginner’s ‘success’. Until I am consistent in my approach, and able to exercise my own disposition, it still remains a new ‘trick’.

At home, I try not to be in a rush or found in a snappy mood when I attend to my kids’ homework. I also take time to let them go for a face splash in the bathroom when they start getting moody. It does help to dispel any foreboding clouds.

Only when the state of emotions and minds are more settled, can the executive functions of planning and self regulation perform effectively in our daily life usage. In other words, it translates automatically to a better holistic performance in all areas.

3. Cultivate Responsibility

Bear Counters

The kids are to write down a goal for each session. Once 5 goals are set, they will earn 1 ‘Bobo’ baby bear (a coloured plastic tiny bear).  This motivated them to write their goals and work for it. I felt it was a good move to instill ownership. What was earned will be cherished more than what is given freely. This little bear is no ordinary toy or reward. From Michelle, the child will bring home Bobo and make sure Bobo accompanies him back to TLE’s next class. It is a calculated effort to instill responsibility in him.

During class lessons, Ms M ensures the children are given responsibilities to fulfil like cleaning up and organising materials after use. On my part, I also ensure kids clear up the toys outside the center regardless of whether they played with them or not.

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4. Promote Social Awareness

Ms M consciously reminds my boy to keep his hands to himself to show respect for his friend’s personal boundaries and there is much turn-taking and role-playing on how to relate with each other.

5. Strengthen Spatial Awareness and Increase Attention Span

The activity below is just one task to help them learn co-ordinating points. ‘Draw a heart shape for the item in Column B, Row 4.’ The kids then take turns to roll the die. It may look simple but it is challenging for those who has short attention span.

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6. Stretch the Parents’ Mindset

The reality is this. I got upset with my boy because he forgot to bring his homework to do during the waiting time for TLE. Ms M suggested to use visual aids like recording down my instructions so that he can fall on something to remind him. I mean, come on, if you read my blog, you know I am big on visual reminders right??? Now I am being reminded to do exactly that! It did not occur to me that it was a new routine at TLE – he is still not used to bringing homework outside to do. I can give him the time and the visual support to develop this new habit. Until then, I can extend grace and patiently remind him until there is progress. Instant results should not be expected.

Similarly, the teddy bear goal cards are new. Ms M suggested to spend a short time on it daily rather than e.g. 1 hour once a week.  I must say, it feels so much more motivating to have support and reminders from TLE too!

A whole Village Approach

As mentioned from the start, having TLE as a third party, reinforced what kind of villagers I wish to influence my children with. By exposing them to the values and skills from the teachers in TLE, combined with a renewed mindset of us (parents), these will greatly reinforce the growth mindset of my kids. Therefore, I am highly excited to study on the growth mindset as a parent and a teacher. I bought the following books to study in June holidays!

Since I am on a quest for growth mindset, I needed personal growth too!

From the discovery of ah guo- 阿果 who illustrated and is the author or 布布 kid’s literature series, I was so excited to find another book of his in kinokuniya. I read a page or two of the CHINESE book which is meant for adults. I had an impulse. I gave myself a challenge. To read this book (on the left) this year. Something very different. Not for my children, but for my own growth. This shall be my first ever adult Chinese literature I have ever laid hands on since Junior College when I could drop my Chinese subject! All because of his lovely illustrations and not too cheem (dense) way of writing. 

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Lastly, with limited time, energy and resources, we are careful with how we spend our time. Other than the 1 enrichment per kid on a non-academic acitivity, this is the first enrichment we have chosen to continue and try out. In Singapore, unless your child has special needs, there are no professionals to step in for behavioural learning gaps. So far, only TLE caters to my ‘normal’ kids who do not fall into the above category yet requires some professional help in their learning gaps. As a parent, I am very inspired to find such support!

The support to equip them with a receptivity and thirst for learning.

What can be more winning than a teachable child? 

The Little Executive: Facebook | Website 

Disclaimer: We were given 3 complimentary sessions for the purpose of this opening review. All watermarked photos belongs to the respective owners of GrowingHearts and The Little Executive. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise stated, you may not use it without permission.

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