After an initial post about having a clear sense of purpose, this month I continue the educational pedagogy through an evangelization lens conversation with a consideration of mindset.
Two common terms in the educational landscape today are growth mindset and asset-based approach. These similar terms highlight that at the core of education, teachers need to have a belief that all students can learn. It is essential to recognize the foundations already present and then constructively build from there, rather than having a stance that focuses on deficits or challenges, leading to a sense of hopelessness or placing blame on students or their families for the struggles they may be experiencing with learning.
Teachers recognize the power of their language and how those words impact the sense of identity that students construct over time. For example, students who experience challenges might say, “I am not a reader,” “I don’t like science,” or “I am not good at math.” However, teachers can help them to add the phrase yet, to recognize that their current progress or academic interests do not define the long-term picture of their academics. A growth mindset focuses on the possibilities and provides encouragement to persevere, and an asset-based approach helps to see that there are footholds already present to support the on-going journey.
These are also critical concepts when considering how to accompany others well with evangelization efforts. First and foremost, it reminds us to always hope. Just as there is a danger in education to focus on the obstacles, sometimes when trying to support others in their spiritual journeys, people can slip into focusing on current challenges. For example, a mom might express sorrow that an adult child is no longer attending Mass regularly. She might question what she did wrong that the foundation was not solid enough to inspire her child to be a practicing Catholic. She might worry about the impact this current context will have on her grandchildren. It can be easy to narrow in on the deficits, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness in this context as well.
Yet, if we pause to acknowledge that this thinking does not align with a belief in God’s power to resurrect, redeem and restore, to facilitate conversions, and to heal, it can stop us in our tracks. We realize that of course, there are more possibilities than the current scenarios seem to point toward. Rather than feeling defeated, a shift in perspective can point us back towards the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.
Holding this mindset requires humility. We cannot see the full picture of how all the different pieces fit together. Instead, we are just called to pray faithfully, discern the natural next step we should be taking to nurture the faith of others, and then surrender the rest to God.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. (John 5:5-9)
Jesus modeled time and time again that lives are not fixed in their current circumstances, that there is always possibility for growth in holiness, and that we need to remember the capacity for grace. He highlights the importance of persevering in hope. Lately, I have been reflecting on how often I expect something to happen at a quicker pace than how it unfolds in reality. When scenarios unfold at a different rate than anticipated, there is the danger of discouragement. I love this excerpt from the Gospel of John because this man had been waiting the length of my whole life, but then in an instant, Jesus healed him with His words. That, along with other stories, help to foster a sense of awe in my heart, reminding me to humbly approach opportunities for evangelization with patience and perseverance from a growth mindset and asset-based approach.
Lord Jesus, Help us to faithfully read Scriptures that we may be nourished by the ways You have acted in different people’s lives throughout the ages. Remind us of the power of Your grace and galvanize in our hearts the reasons why we should always hope when reflecting on our own lives and the lives of others. Christ, be our light!
Copyright 2019 Amanda Villagómez