It's Our Mindset

  • Child Development
  • Montessori
Marilyn E. Stewart, Head of School
Students conducting a science experiment.

One of the most important characteristics that members of our school community share is the Red Oaks Mindset:  perseverance in the face of challenges and always choosing to grow and expand our capabilities and proficiencies.  It is what we seek to foster in our students; it is what we share with our community; it is how we conduct ourselves as an institution.

We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.  – Carol Dweck

In the past decade, our ethos, which is founded in Montessori principles, has been heavily influenced by what we at Red Oaks colloquially refer to as “The 3 Ds”: Deak, Duckworth, and Dweck. All three are educators who believe in our capacity to take part in our own educations and aptitude for learning, in new and profound ways. Visiting Scholar Dr. JoAnn Deak has taught us that, with proper “exercise” and “stretching” of neurons of all sizes (her metaphorical “rubber bands”), we can build brain capacity especially in areas of challenge. She is in agreement with Psychologists Angela Lee Duckworth, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Carol Dweck, of Stanford University, that attitudes to success and failure are the best predictors of achievement, and that through perseverance we can literally change the structures of our brains. Duckworth calls her approach to learning grit and defines thusly, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals.” Dweck promotes growth mindset which taps into the psychology of self esteem and how placing the focus on effort raises self esteem, making personal growth, reinvention, and success achievable.  She says, “We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”

Furthermore, when we learn about the brain and how it can change through challenging situations, we get an extra boost from the sheer knowledge that we can transform – and so we do! It’s called metacognition, the kind of self awareness that allows us to think about how we think and to make changes that optimize our potential. With this knowledge, we can persevere in the face of failure, choosing instead to grow and learn.

Another popular scholar, author, and speaker, Dr. Brené Brown, has written books, delivered TED Talks, and offered numerous courses on the value of imperfection and vulnerability and their pivotal roles in the exercise of true courage and growth. She has said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

What is remarkable is the way in which our faculty and staff have assimilated, processed, embodied, and shared this powerful ethos of openness, intention, perseverance, and achievement. Visitors to Red Oaks can feel it in the halls, hear it in the voices of children and adults throughout the school, and see, almost touch, it in the classrooms. It is there between the nurse and a sick child, between teachers discussing their day, between staff and parents planning a meeting, between children bringing out the recycling together, and always it is there between teachers and students from the very beginning. It is respect that expects the highest and best from everyone, encouragement that understands the vagaries of perseverance, and celebration that recognizes education, effort, and tenacity as the true determinants of achievement.   

The advantages of living and learning within a community of supportive, encouraging, accepting, and like-minded individuals for whom such considerations are enduring and essential, with whom we can be vulnerable and unafraid to try and try again, are unparalleled… for ALL of us, adults, children, educators…EVERYONE.

As a school, we walk the talk, setting goals for ourselves that are visionary, and demand skill sets that may be outside of our comfort zone, knowing that we will grow, will learn, will develop the proficiencies and infrastructures to help us achieve our goals.

  • brain
  • Deak
  • Duckworth
  • Dweck
  • ethos
  • grit
  • growth mindset
  • mindset
  • Montessori
  • perseverance
  • success