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HAMMOND: Memes, mindset and me

• Apr 13, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Recently I’ve tried to understand memes. I didn’t understand their purpose or what makes up a meme. So, I decide to ask an expert — my teenage daughter.

My daughter thinks memes are hilarious. We have this ongoing back and forth where she attempts to explain what a meme is. I show her a funny picture on Facebook, and in return she says that’s not a meme. She laughs at my inability to comprehend the significance of a meme verses a picture with a silly quote. Finally, I gave up. I decided there is no reason for me to spend any more of my adult energy on memes. I had the mindset that I don’t understand and never will, so I quit trying.

“No problem can sustain the assault of sustained thinking” (Voltaire). If I would have chosen to attack this problem with sustained thinking, I may have a better understanding of a meme at this point in my life. I recently watched a TED Talk by Eduardo Briceno on the learning zone versus the performance zone. The learning zone is a time of learning and growth. The performance zone is when we’re doing something we’ve previously mastered. While both of these zones should be part of our lives, he elaborated on being intentional to not spend too much time in the performance zone.

As adults we change and grow when we are in the learning zone. We deliberately practice, elicit feedback and improve. After several years of working at the same job, performance plateaus. Once we become good at something as adults we become complacent and just do our job. This is a dangerous place to be if we want to become better at what we do. We need to intentionally practice skills to improve. There is value in the performance zone, but this is not a place we want to stay.

Alternating between learning zone and performance zone increases capabilities. Thinking back to my memes, had I spent time in the learning zone immersed in the meme culture as teenagers do, I most certainly would be able to identify a meme.

There is a difference between not knowing and not knowing yet. Carol Dweck researched how students react to learning adversity. Through this research she determined that fixed mindset and growth mindset describe our beliefs about learning. It was determined that when students have a growth mindset, they believe they can learn despite difficulties. They understand this struggle makes them ultimately successful. Therefore, a little extra effort leads to increased abilities and accomplishments.

This idea has become the topic of professional developments for teachers. Books and articles galore provide tips on developing growth mindset in students. Schools continually encourage students to have a growth mindset through building their capacity to try and revel in the hard work that comes prior to success.

Do I have a growth mindset? Am I in the learning zone? As a school leader, I expect my teachers to balance the learning and performance zones. Teachers encourage students to have a growth mindset. This life skill will benefit students far beyond the walls of the educational system. As an adult, I need to also live in the learning zone and have the mindset that even a 40ish year old woman can understand pop culture.

Interestingly, over spring break, my daughter came to school with me. She was on a computer in the other room and I could hear her giggling. She created a bulletin board about growth mindset using memes. This bulletin board is not only there to encourage students to have a growth mindset, but it is a constant reminder to myself to model this habit of mind.

— By Shelly Hammond, principal of Ferry/Voyager Elementary.

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