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Get Messi

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Keith Robinson is the Executive Director at People’s Prep Charter School. Before transitioning to his current position, Keith was also a founding math teacher and the school’s second principal. He began teaching after graduating from the University of Florida as a corps member in Teach for America. Keith is committed to supporting students and their families through the hard work necessary to be successful in applying to, attending, and graduating from college.

I think it’s important to remember that, every day, I’m going to make mistakes no matter what role I play within the organization. I made errors as a new teacher, a new principal, and certainly even now as the Executive Director.

I can look at any of my failures in two ways: Either I’m a bad leader who is failing to serve the needs of our staff and students, OR I can make adjustments for tomorrow and, with my support combined with my team’s effort, we can work together to make each day more successful than the last.

The first is to believe the mistake is a reflection on you as a person, on your intelligence, on your talent, and to conclude that you must not be very good at this thing. Psychologist Carol Dweck calls this the “fixed mindset.”

The second is to believe that you simply haven’t yet developed the skill necessary to successfully complete the task, but that if you work hard enough, you can. This is what Dweck calls the “growth mindset.”

At People’s Prep, we call the yet mindset the Messi mindset. Students who have this mindset understand the power of the word “yet.” With this targeted shift in thinking, we see results.

At the start of my first year, 50% of my students scored in the bottom quartile nationally on the ACT Explore. Only 32% of students scored in this quartile by the end of the year. Additionally, 7% of my students had put in the hard work to score in the top quartile, up from 1%.

I entered People’s Prep as the Founding Math Teacher; now I am the Executive Director. In 2013, I was awarded the Fishman Prize and published an essay about this topic. As a presenter at the New Jersey Charter School Association Annual Conference, I shared this story again and can’t help but think about how Getting Messi has affected our school culture, inside and outside of the classroom.

As I transitioned into teacher-leadership roles, I took the Messi mindset with me, particularly when working on our school culture. Students make poor choices. How they handle the results of those choices is where the “yet” comes into play.

Often times, we let our bad decisions define our next move. We let emotions get the best of us, we fail a teammate or student, we procrastinate and miss a due date– the list can go on. Our students’ response is “I’m not there yet.”

“There” can be something different for everyone. “There” for our students is being college-ready. If you’ve adopted the Messi mentality, every obstacle, every wrong answer, every not-so-great choice becomes a chance to develop, a chance to improve. This is the key to creating an environment where ALL students seek to challenge themselves and overcome obstacles on the way to being ready for college.