I decided to create a children’s short story, with the intention of teaching the concept of the Growth Mindset in a way for children to understand
THE BIG RED ‘F’
By Joelene Brewer
Jill was a bright young girl,
with eyes like warm, summer earth
and hair a bundle of glossy curls
She liked to twirl through fields in the welcoming gusts of wind;
She liked to dance on stage in costumes,
and she loved to perform,
even if just to crack jokes that make her friends laugh and grin.
Jill also liked school, most of the time.
Though, she was not too fond of staring at boards and taking notes,
but when she would raise her hand to read for the class,
that’s when she felt that she could really shine.
But Jill couldn’t read as well as she could dance for a crowd.
She stumbled and skipped on words as if she had untied shoelaces.
And some days, Jill admits, though she’s not so proud,
when the teacher tried to tell the best way to get through books clean and clearly,
Jill’s thoughts couldn’t help but float away to somewhere else.
One day, as Jill sat in her school chair,
crumpled like her homework papers from the night before,
she began to feel the softness of snow fall upon her rested head, between her folded arms, and to the floor,
Except it wasn’t snow.
When she sat up, she was met with her teacher looming over, as another paper drifted into view,
littered with bright red underlines and scarlet F’s, on display like some art of Van Gogh
That night Jill wrapped her body in blankets of worry as she dreamt of jelly pink brains
and English essays
As time went by, Jill tried and tried and tried with all her might to get those marks right. She stared at the silly sentences until her sorry eyes stung at the sight. But soon enough some weeks went by and when the teacher arrived to greet her with a grade, a big o’l C in red ink stared down Jill right in the face. She was sure this time she’d get an A.
“There must be something wrong with me.” Jill thought to herself, “I’ll never be able to read.”
After that day, when she’d come across a word she didn’t recognize, a strange kind of sad anger boiled in her gut that felt like stove-top soup left behind. The anger would reach into the tips of her fingers and the clips in her hair. Some mornings, she’d be faced with a word on the cereal box, or a sentence in her father’s newspaper, and the feeling would rise up once more into a fuss, and Jill would pretend to miss the school bus.
When a week went by and she faced yet another rosy red F, Jill was certainly sure it didn’t bother her anymore, but for some reason, she’d still feel the whisper of the strange sad angry feeling deep inside of her. Halfway through thinking of some excuse to go home, her teacher called her to another room.
Her teacher held some of Jill’s test marks up,
“Thanks for rubbing it in.” Jill thought, offended by the rudeness of this grown up.
But then, her teacher said something to her that might have changed her fourth grade report card fate.
Her teacher pointed to the C and said, “Jill, this is great!”
Jill shot her head up from where she was staring, embarrassed, and argued back, “No, it’s not an A.”
“It doesn’t have to be an A,” her teacher said, “We don’t want you to work yourself to the bone for a silly letter, we just hope for you to try, and improve, and that’s what you were doing! You were being a model student.”
Jill was shocked. She had no clue! “But I stopped trying to improve. I got all sad and blue and my grades turned to goo. Besides, students here are getting As every day, what makes me just as great?”
To which Jill’s teacher replied- “Not everybody can be amazing at everything. And remember all the times you were the only one to put your hand up to read aloud, even if you found it hard to do? That was truly hardworking of you.”
“But what about my other, big red F’s?” Jill asked.
Her teacher looked a Jill with a kind smile, and explained, “When you don’t believe in yourself, your learning can rusty, just the same as if you don’t practice before performing at a show. If you want, though, you can stay for awhile and I’ll help you grow.”