Reaction v. Response

Have you ever been in a tough spot and your first thought was "I can't do this"? For many of us that is a natural reaction and that is okay. However, it is important to realize this is simply a reaction and this does not need/have to be our response.

Reactions are one on impulse, without much thought or considering what the end result may be.
Response is a reply that is more thoughtful and done with reasoning.

The key is recognizing that the "I can't do this" (or similarly unhelpful self-talk) is just a reaction in the moment and that you have the power to shift your mindset when responding to the situation. You can do this be creating a new habit that allows you to create a small gap before your reaction. A gap in which you stop, consider, choose, and then only respond.

So next time you are in a tough spot (maybe you look at a quiz and reactively think "I don't know how to answer these questions") put your pencil down, take a deep breath, tell yourself you can do hard things, and now decide that your response will be to work confidently through the problems, doing the "easy" ones first to build up to going back to the more "challenging" questions.

Realizing that unhelpful self-talk in the moment is just a reaction and does not need to be your response is empowering and something that can be perfected with practice!

Conveying Emotions 

Conveying our emotions can be difficult and it is easy to resort to default responses such as "I'm good" or "It's fine" when someone asks you how you are feeling. When someone says to you "How are you feeling?" they want to know how you really feel! I love this infographic because it gives you some great conversation starters and it can help you move beyond "entry-level" words such a mad/happy/tired and expand your emotional vocabulary. Remember that your teachers are here to help you and if you let us in and let us know how you really feel we can be there for you in a much for effective and helpful way.

You can do hard things!

Being presented with a challenging topic or project can be uncomfortable. Sometimes really having to think and problem solve isn't easy and when you hit a road bump it is easy to feel discouraged. When you find yourself in this situation, I want you to change your mindset and consider the following:

Your teachers are here to show you what you are capable of. You are never asked to do or learn something we don't believe you can. A challenge is a complement! We are giving you something "hard" to do because we believe in you that much! If we only ever asked you to do easy and quick tasks, we wouldn't be helping you grow or showing you the greatness we know you are capable of and that would be a waste of your talents.

Mindset (Growth v. Fixed)

Mrs. Ashley's Growth Mindset Mantra: "I am a work in progress and a masterpiece at the same time"
Your mindset is a set of thoughts and beliefs that shape how you think about the world around you and yourself. Your mindset influences how you think about, feel, and behave in a situation. There are two main categories of mindsets: fixed and growth. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that effort has no effect on accomplishment (if you are smart you are smart, if not there is nothing you can do). Someone with a growth mindset believes that they can develop talents and abilities through effort and hard work.

Fixed Mindset

  • Either I'm good at it or I'm not. 
  • That's just who I am. I can't change it.
  •  If you must work hard, you don't have the ability.
  • If I don't try, then I won't fail. 

Growth Mindset

  • I can learn to do anything I want.
  • I'm a constantly evolving work in progress.
  • The more you challenge yourself, the smarter you become.
  • I only fail when I stop trying.

Why is the idea of mindset important? Your mindset plays a critical role in how you cope with life's challenges. Having a growth mindset means you are more likely to persevere in the face of setbacks, because you know your effort will pay off.
Students with a growth mindset rebound after failure, where students with a fixed mindset seem devastated by even the smallest setback.

Science Talk: It is never too late to develop your GROWTH mindset! Recent advances in neuroscience have shown that the brain is more malleable than previously thought. Inside the cortex of the brain are billions of tiny nerve cells called neurons. The nerve cells have branches connecting them to each other in a complicated network. Communication between these brain cells is what allows us to think and solve problems. When you learn new things, these tiny connections in the brain multiply and get stronger. If you continue to strengthen these connections things you once found difficult (ex: memorizing a formula in math) seem to become easy.

The Real Truth about "Smart" and "Dumb": No one thinks babies are stupid because they can't talk. They just haven't learned how to yet. But a person will say they are "dumb" if they can't solve math problems, or spell a word right, or read fast-even though all these things are learned with practice. At first, no one can read or solve equations. But with practice, they can learn to do it. And the more a person learns, the easier it gets to learn new things- because their brain "muscles" have gotten stronger!

What Can YOU Do to Get "Smarter"? Just like a weightlifter or a basketball player, you must exercise and practice to make your brain grow stronger. By practicing, you also learn skills that let you use your brain in a smarter way-just like a basketball player learns new moves!

What do I do if I find myself in a fixed mindset?

  • Focus on the journey - there is value in what you learn along the way, not just in the final product.
    • In an SRT project, just because the final product doesn't "work" or you didn't get the data you were expecting doesn't mean you didn't learn important information along the way or that you can't still be successful on the final assessment of your work.
  • Incorporate "yet" - if you are struggling with a task. Remind yourself that you haven't mastered it "yet".
    • When learning a difficult concept keep practicing and asking for help - you will get it in the end - you just don't have it "yet".
  • Pay attention to your words and thoughts (more on this in the next Mindfulness Minute post next month) - positive self-talk builds a growth mindset.
  • Take on challenges- making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn!
    • "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Developing a Resilient Mindset

The Growth Mindset (thinking back to our last Mindfulness Minute) is where people believe their skills and abilities can be developed through hard work and effort. The Growth Mindset opens a world of learning and creates resilient thinking and attitudes.

Resilience is the ability to adapt and bounce back when things don't go as planned. Having a Resilient Mindset allows you to cope with what life throws at you. Many of the world's most significant inventions and advancements are due to the resilient thinking and attitudes of individuals.

Think about this...Don't take failure personally. Get your ego out of it and your curiosity into it. Approach failure with an attitude of Hmmm, I wonder why that happened? Was there something I could do differently? Don't fall into the trap of creating an award-winning drama around failure and using it as proof that your doomed/never going to get what you want.

What are the characteristics of a resilient person?

  • a positive attitude
  • optimistic
  • the ability to regulate emotions
  • the ability to see failure as a form of positive feedback
  • approach problems with flexibility
  • can adapt to new situations
  • learn from experience (it is about the journey not the destination)
  • ask for help when needed

How can I develop a Resilient Mindset?

Below are 2 strategies to cope with stress and enhance your resilience.

Strategy 1: Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT) Therapy

  • Be aware of your negative self-talk.
  • Name your negative inner voice.
  • Balance the negative through with a positive thought.
  • Move on!


  • Be aware of your negative self-talk : My teacher doesn't like me
  • Name your negative inner voice: My "inner-critic"
  • Balance the negative through with a positive thought: Just because I was confused in class today doesn't mean my teacher doesn't like me. All my teachers are here to support and help - I just need to reach out.
  • Move on: I will visit my teacher tomorrow before HR if I am still confused after tonight's homework.

Strategy 2: Rearview Mirror Exercise

Pick a point in time 2-3 weeks from now. Imagine you are at that future point in time, and you are looking back over the past 2-3 weeks what do you want to see in your review mirror? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. How did I manage my stress and anxiety?

2. How did in engage with those I am closest to?

3. How did I deal with my challenges and opportunities at school?

4. How did I contribute to my community?

Time Managment and Estabilishing a Routine 

Time Management and Establishing a Routine

Think about this...

  • You are what you do repeatedly.
  • When motivation fails us having a routine/habit caries us through.

Establishing a routine (day to day plan) allows us to manage our time effectively and efficiently. Having a routine makes accomplishing uncomfortable tasks nonnegotiable.

For example, my afterschool routine is:

  • grab a snack
  • math homework
  • SRT
  • exercise
  • studying for upcoming tests
  • short-term HW (due next class)
  • long-term projects

Having a routine helps to guarantee that I don't have time to talk myself out of doing the work. I know that getting through my routine is a fact (a nonnegotiable)! Instead of spending time negotiating with myself or making excuses for why I can just "do it later" I spend my time getting the work done! My routine can include breaks and rewards (that keeps it fun) while the work gets done.

Your routine (what you do repeatedly) also lends itself to effective time management. To get through your "to do list" you force yourself to be accountable with your time (there are only so many hours outside of school to get things done). Knowing what you must do outside of school can also help you more efficiently use your class time - i.e. getting things done in class so they don't become homework.

If you haven't tried the Pomodoro Technique to help with Time Management, give it go!

I want to establish an afterschool routine, but I don't know where to start. What can I do?

  • Create a work area for yourself in your home - somewhere comfortable and free of distractions
  • Post a visual schedule (make it eye catching) - calendar/chart/poster/post it notes/whiteboard
  • Make a list of the exact HW you want to do and cross items off as you go
  • Plan out your upcoming week on the weekend (ex: make the planning part of your Sunday night routine)
  • Note when tests, events, HW, and projects are due
  • Map out daily plans for studying or completing long-term projects
  • Set aside time to relax and for physical activity
  • Find a cool app to help (I will admit that I am old school when it comes to organization, but there are so many cool apps out there - if you find a good one let me know and I will share it out). Click here for suggested apps.