“So, basically, we all share the same basic capacity for thought, for the acquisition of knowledge and skills – anything!” Michael Benzine (five-time winner of the Nabisco Edutainer of the Year Award) is holding forth on the Growth Mindset with his teaching assistant, Glynnis, who is reading the blurb on the back of Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by the Stanford pyschologist, Dr Carol S. Dweck. “All we need to do is believe in ourselves.”
“Is that how you spell ‘fulfil’?” Glynnis asks.
“I should think so, Glyn,” says Michael, “but that’s by the by: the ideas in here are pedagogical dynamite!”
“You said that about Brain Gym.” Glynnis darts a glance at our cameraman.
“How was I to know that the bottom would fall out of Brain Gym?!” Michael takes the book back.
“Have you finished it?” Glynnis asks, looking after the book as it rises away from her.
“Not yet, but I’ve seen the TED Talk and got the general idea.” Michael puts the book down and opens his Microsoft Surface. “I’ve started fleshing out a Growth Mindset display to motivate the kids.”
“Kids love football, don’t they?” he says, firing up the tablet. “So I thought ‘What if I could get them to think of their ambitions as part of a game of football.”
“Like a metaphor?” asks Glynnis.
“If you like.”
He turns the tablet to us and shows us an image of Lionel Messi kicking a football. The text above and below it reads: “Your dreams are balls: kick them into the stars.”
“Misconstrued?” I offer.
“How d’you mean?” Michael looks to the image and then back at Glynnis.
“Your dreams are balls.” says Glynnis.
“Yeah.” says Michael.
“Well…” she winces again and smiles at me.
“What Glynnis is trying to say,” I cut in, “is that saying that something ‘is balls’ has a double meaning, doesn’t it? Like saying ‘That’s balls, that is!’ You know, like ‘a load of balls’?”
“A load of balls?” Michael points at Lionel Messi. “He’s only kicking one. It’s his dream.”
“Perhaps change ‘Your dreams are balls’ to ‘Your dreams are like balls’?” offers Glynnis tentatively.
Michael has walked over to his Lego classroom and started moving Lego desks around. “What do you think, Keith?” he asks.
The image of Bracewell’s NQT comes to life suddenly on the classroom’s interactive smartboard. He’s sitting on a couch in his living room, in a plaid dressing gown. “Sorry, Michael! What was that you said?”
“The ‘Dreams Are Balls’ poster. It worked for you, didn’t it?”
“Oh ay,” says Keith from the paisley sofa, “Just looking at it improved me keepy-uppy no end. Went up by five.”
Michael rounds on Glynnis and I, arching a brow. “As much as that, eh, Keith?”
“With a Hacky Sack, mind,” adds Keith, from the screen behind Michael.
“No matter,” Michael puffs up his chest. “Get it printed, Glynnis. Large format.”
Glynnis makes a note in a spiralbound diary.
Michael goes back to his tablet. “Here’s another one.” he says.
“Large format.” Michael is holding a Lego figurine with a ball on a stick stuck to its head; the tip of one finger stroking the ball.
“And then for my piece de resistance,” he says. “This one’ll go on the door.”
“Inside or outside?” asks Keith from the smartboard. Glynnis and Keith look to one another.
Michael turns, fists resting on his hips like Peter Pan: “Outside,” he says, “So’s the kids see it before they come in.”
Glynnis makes more notes. From the smartboard, still in his dressing gown, Keith can be seen kicking a small beanbag into the air. “Nice balls,” says Michael.
Michael swipes again on the screen of his tablet to reveal a photograph of a mountain-climber scaling a rocky outcrop. The poster’s title exhorts the reader to ‘Climb your dreams’.
“It can also be an adjective.” I quickly add.
“Brilliant!” says Michael. “Large format, Glynnis.”
And, before she scribbles a final note in her diary, Glynnis looks at me again, and smiles.