Students in Anglophone East brought home the year’s first report cards this week. These tallies of children’s accomplishments arrived just as Statistics Canada announced New Brunswick leads the country in the number of college graduates, and that our ranks of both college and university degree recipients has grown in the last decade.
I’d like to believe that the popularity in college degrees is a reflection of more students making informed decisions, rather than blindly heading off to university because they were a successful high school student. Universities are important institutions, but during my education years, I didn’t feel like colleges were given the attention they deserved. I also think that critical thinking skills were not taught to my generation to the extent to which they are with today’s students, and that is a change also worth celebrating.
A teacher from our daughter’s school shared a letter this week that outlines how she and many of her colleagues are promoting a “lifetime of curiosity and growth,” not just checking boxes on a report card form. The letter explains the basic principles of a growth mindset, as per the teachings of Stanford researcher Carol Dweck. “A growth mindset is the belief that we can learn anything with support, hard work, and thoughtful strategic instruction. Children with a growth mindset outperform children who do not think of themselves and their learning this way.”
A growth mindset is accomplished by focusing on the concepts of optimism (no matter the obstacle, we can overcome it), resilience (we bounce back from setbacks and learn from them), persistence (we don’t stop trying), flexibility (there’s more than one way to approach any problem), and empathy (the ability to understand your own feelings, as well as others).
The letter sets out several ways in which a parent can reinforce these ideas at home. I think we as New Brunswickers could also stand to follow this advice, in helping each other strengthen our position as a province. There are two key points: share your story and refine how you share it.
We need to keep celebrating both the success and the struggles that have shaped this province and its people. A perfect example of optimism and flexibility leading to economic growth for New Brunswick is the story of Craft Coast Canning, profiled this week in The Daily Gleaner. James Ponting, a beer lover and chemical engineer by trade, saw an opportunity in the local market to create a business canning beer for local craft breweries, providing those companies with a much-needed service while creating a business for himself and his wife. James Ponting didn’t just complain about the local beer he enjoyed not being available in cans at the liquor store; he found out why it wasn’t and did something about it. Now Craft Coast Canning is working with more than a dozen Maritime brewers, just two months after launching. That’s the kind of critical, creative thinking that will build a province of successful entrepreneurs and professionals.
New Brunswickers also need to focus on carefully choosing the way in which we talk about ourselves. Those Statistics Canada results also showed New Brunswick has the lowest percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a university degree in Canada. But instead of focusing on being last on that list, we can celebrate that the number of university-degree-holders in that age bracket rose from 21.7% in 2006 to 27.1% in 2016. We can focus on building on our accomplishments, rather than focusing on what we’ve yet to achieve.
There might not be report card boxes for optimism, resilience, persistence, flexibility, and empathy, but read between the lines of the comments and you’ll find them.