She told me that at her last school, her teachers had told her that she lacked "grit", that she didn't persevere hard enough to be successful and that with greater effort she could do just fine. One teacher went so far as to tell her that she had a "fixed mindset" that she couldn't do things and that was what was getting in her way. What was the sub-text? Basically that it was not her teachers' fault that she wasn't succeeding at school, it was hers.
The American educational philosopher Neil Postman once commented that hearing a teacher say: "I taught that concept, the student just didn't learn it." was akin listening to a car salesperson say: "I sold that car, the customer just didn't buy it." Teaching and learning (like selling and buying) is a symbiotic process, neither can live in isolation from the other. The teacher who "teaches" something that nobody learns, hasn't taught anything at all.
My concern is that recently - and perhaps this is the result of the pressures brought on by high stakes testing, or regional/international examinations (Provincial, IB, AP, etc.) - educators have scrambled to place the onus for success or failure squarely on the shoulders of the student. Complaints about "class composition" or a lack of grit, or a fixed mindset all point to the child as the source of the problem, not the school or classroom or teacher.
So what can we do to change this seemingly "fixed mindset" in ourselves as educators? To begin with, we have to understand what the terms really mean, and where they come from. A glib turn of phrase should not replace the need to delve deeply into the individual challenges of each student. Low self-esteem, a product of repeated effort and failure, does not show a lack of resilience, it shows a need for support and understanding. A preconceived notion that a particular task is hopeless is not a product of a "mindset" but a hard-earned realization that comes from completing painstaking work that has reaped little or no reward.
It is our job, as parents and educators, not just to recognize that a student is "stuck", but also to help them to back away from a seemingly impossible challenge and find a different pathway around it. That is not a lack of grit, it is just common sense!