The Growth Mindset in the Spanish Classroom

By Brigid Rodriguez ’04, World Languages Department

“What motivates you to learn Spanish?”

This is the question I asked all my Spanish II students. In Spanish II, the students are moving from review of Spanish I to learning brand new ways of communicating. To some, this is exciting. To others, this is terrifying. I think every Spanish teacher wants their students to be excited and optimistic about learning the language, but as we discovered in class, everyone has different motivations for learning Spanish, whether they be extrinsic or intrinsic.

As their teacher, I want to hold their hands and tell them “everything is going to be okay” and that we are going to get there together. Although this is very true, I know that there are some things they are going to need to do on their own, like changing their mindset.

Many students have been hearing about the growth mindset in other classes, but I wanted to implement a growth mindset specifically for Spanish class. So I decided to dig deep into their fears and insecurities about learning Spanish and put things into perspective with the phrase “Cambia tus palabras y cambia tu mentalidad,” meaning “Change your words and change your mindset.” We discussed some common fixed mindset self-talk like, “I don’t speak Spanish well,” “I will never speak like a native,” “My Spanish can’t be better,” and “Spanish is too hard,” before brainstorming ways to have a more positive, growth mindset self-talk. The students came up with phrases like, “I can speak Spanish well with practice,” “I will speak Spanish my own way,” “My Spanish is always improving,” and “Spanish is a welcomed challenge.”

As students discussed their insecurities, they learned they were not alone. Many people had the same fears, but they came together as a class to put their motivations into perspective and commit to “changing their words and changing their mindset.”

It’s important to remember that developing a growth mindset is not instantaneous, so we discussed other tools and strategies to learning a new language, such as not being afraid of making mistakes and seeking opportunities for language practice. While the road to learning a new language can be challenging, my Spanish II students now have the tools and words they need to face them and succeed.