The Fish and Mindsets

When I was twelve in secondary school, we had to draw fish in art class. I remember starting to draw the fish (below) and the art teacher, Mrs Johnson, got angry with me. “Do you call that a fish!” she shouted (she was quite a shouty teacher) and then held my pencil drawing up to the rest of the class and said “James Hatton thinks this is a fish – it looks nothing like a fish.”

The fish that doesn’t look like a fish.

Well, that was it – Mrs Johnson had not only confirmed that I couldn’t draw but that I should also feel embarrassed about my attempts. It was until years later that I’d found the drawing in my parents attic and I was sat down amongst the dusty boxes, recalling the embarrassment, a realisation came out loud, “It does look like a fucking fish!” Now, years after that ‘trauma healing’, training as a teacher, I’m reading the book Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck. The book essentially highlights that people can find themselves in one of two mindsets: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. It’s a book worth reading to any aspiring teachers or those with interest in personal development. Reid Wilson’s illustration, below summarises the key differences in those mindsets.

Growth vs Fixed Mindset – based on Carol Dweck’s work.

I had dismissed any possibility of attempting art work – at least in the conventional sense of drawing and painting as a result of the art class experience. (I doubt it was not the only such experience I had in her classes). I had entered a fixed mindset. Fortunately, and as Carol Dweck discusses is often the case, this mindset had only applied to drawing and painting; as I’ve benefitted from a growth mindset in many other pursuits in life.

Well, at least, the event taught me that when I am teaching, criticism is a delicate affair and must always be constructive. In retrospect now, I realised that the challenges I may have faced when mentoring others, at work or in Scouting, may have really been the challenge to move an individual from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I hope that I can be aware enough to realise the mindset pitfalls I may fall into in future.

As for attempting artwork in future, well, my brother had bought me some art supplies one Christmas so perhaps when my course is over and these come out of storage, I’ll have a go.

Leave a Reply