By Troy Hudson
On Saturday, April 21, close to twenty people attended SMCC’s Community Garden Cleanup Day, which you can read about on the front page. I was among them, despite having no proclivity for gardening and no intention to utilize one of the plots myself. I simply wanted to take part in an effort to beautify our campus and prepare a place for some things to grow.
As I reflect on my experience, I am heartened that so many of my fellow students and staff chose to spend time toiling together under the warm April sun for the common good of our community. There was a genuine sense of camaraderie among us and the work went quickly, as is always the case when labor is undertaken with a light heart.
The community garden represents more than a horticultural enterprise; it can be seen as a living metaphor for all of SMCC. It takes a lot of hard work from many sets of hands to prepare the community garden for a season of growing, but all of that work can’t make a single seed sprout, a single leaf unfurl — the plants do that all on their own. All we can do is provide a nurturing environment for that growth and continue to give them what they need to meet their potential. Likewise, successful students aren’t “made” at SMCC — they grow that way.
A concept that I have come across many times in my studies at SMCC is the “growth mindset,” an idea explored by Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck in her 2006 book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” Dr. Dweck’s theory, based on decades of research on motivation and success, states that all people fall somewhere on a continuum of mindsets when it comes to learning.
On one hand is the view that basic qualities like intelligence and creativity are innate, and success is a result of natural abilities and talents. This is called the “fixed” mindset. At the other end of the spectrum is the view that these qualities can be developed through effort and good teaching. This is the “growth mindset,” and it is this point of view that opens doors for us and brings success within reach.
From my very first semester at SMCC, I have been encouraged to view success as something attainable. My instructors have encouraged and challenged me to do better with every semester, and at times I have been frustrated by that challenge. When I struggle with a skill that’s well outside my wheelhouse (I’m looking at you, math), it can be all too easy to throw up my hands and say, “I’m just no good at this!” And yet with many hours of practice and hard work, I have met those goals that seemed impossible for me.
I have seen many of you do the same, and your success inspires me to never give up on people, because we are all capable of being better, no matter how far off our goals may seem. Some people say nobody ever changes — Those people are wrong. Dr. Dweck’s research has shown that when we believe we can get better and we work hard to make that happen, we really do achieve more. That isn’t to say we can all be astronauts or professional athletes, but it does mean we can trust our bodies and minds to do what people do: grow.