A letter from a teacher who cares...

Dear Parents,

Your child does have natural talent, abilities and intelligence in some areas- but that’s not the end of the story. These things are not fixed traits.

They may have a gift for story writing, art, maths or sport, but it needs to be grown.

They may not be good at science, history or working with others…YET!

Whatever the case for your child- the reality is that natural talent, abilities and intelligence are developed over time. Through effort, persistence, practice and focussed attention.

The brain is a highly adaptive organ- it changes like a muscle through a process called neuroplasticity. From the cradle to the grave- our brains are always changing. The malleable brain is the most interesting, meaningful discovery of the last 15 years that has a huge impact on the education of your child.

Help your kids, and help them to understand the growth mindset.

Because smart is not something your are- it’s something you get.

Fit is not something you are- it’s something you get.

Good at sport is not something you are- it’s something you get.

Jonathan Thurston had to learn to catch the football the same way everyone else does. Einstein learned how to start counting to 10, just like everyone else.

Every skill your child can perform has been acquired- through applying themselves to it. Reading, walking, talking, swimming, riding a bike.

Stop telling your kids that they are smart, gifted, talented, bright, clever, or a “natural”. This might “pump up their tyres” and make them feel good for a moment- but it doesn’t help them keep growing their abilities.  What happens when they get an answer wrong? Does that mean they’re dumb and lacking talent?

They can’t control how naturally gifted they are- so don’t praise them for it.

Instead, praise them for their efforts, persistence and the way they tackle challenges when they arise- they can control these things, and this will grow their abilities. Real learning only occurs when it is hard- when it stretches them. How do they respond to the struggle of learning? How hard do they work at growing their talent, abilities and intelligence? Let’s encourage the process of learning.

We should encourage the behaviour that we want to see the most.  Value the process, more than the performance- then the performance will look after itself.

What parents understand and say makes a difference. Teach your kids the growth mindset, and help them thrive in learning and in life.


Luke McKenna- a teacher who cares


To learn more about the concept, check out our growth mindset research report. It is available for free and only take 3 minutes to read.

Or you can buy the book “Thrive: unlocking the truth about student performance”.

Luke McKenna is an educator, author and founder of Unleashing Personal Potential- providing schools with highly engaging and evidence-based ways to improve student performance. Find out more.