When Sophie Thinks She Can't cover

When Sophie Thinks She Can't...

First published in 2017

About the story
This book was not my idea.

Ann Stern is a longtime friend; we worked together in the Cambridge Public schools where she was a teacher of teachers, and I was trying out a course for eighth graders about How to Write and Illustrate a Hero/ine Adventure Journey. Ann ordered my haphazard lessons into a logically unfolding whole that enabled it to become a really helpful experience for students and teachers, and for me. And we're still friends.

For the past several years, Ann had taught ‘growth mindset’ to a wide variety of teachers both in Cambridge and throughout the country. As the teachers applied the lessons in their classrooms, they became more excited and more ‘renewed’ than they remembered from any sort of approach they had used until then. Their students became not only more attentive, but they became curious, cooperative with each other, supportive of each other, focused and suddenly able to see their work as a challenge rather than as a boring task. And they felt increasingly capable of meeting the next challenge.

One night Ann and her husband Ed plied me with pizza and described what Ann had been seeing with growth mindset, and they suggested I write another Sophie book about it. They suggested books and videos, especially work by Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler, and they suggested how the story could unfold: that Sophie could be discouraged by something and through learning growth mindset at school could earn to apply that attitude to other aspects in her life. I took notes on a napkin and began the next day.

I’m lucky in having some gifted teachers among my younger family and friends. They not only use a growth mindset with their students and their own children, but they are acute critics and feel entitled to give opinions about my books when I’m writing them. At one point, I had come up with a what I thought was a brilliant math problem for Sophie to struggle with and its equally brilliant solution, until a friend crushed it flat and showed me why it was a dud. The final problem and its solution came from my daughter-in-law, Rachel Mulry.

I'm hoping the book can be part of teaching growth mindset in the classroom, for all children like Sophie who are feeling discouraged about how ‘smart’ they are, and will forget that whole idea and simply learn to rise to a new challenge.

copyright 2018 by Molly Bang