The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

OPINION | Moments in Classes that Changed Our Minds

Ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius claimed that being in the company of good people is like entering a room filled with the scent of herbs. Overtime, you will no longer smell the unique fragrance of each herb because they have already blended into one aroma. Engaging in Bates’ classroom environment is precisely the same process. Just like herbs, each student has their own unique academic strengths, perspectives and minds. When you enter a learning environment brimming with different intellectual perspectives, however, your own mind gradually begins to change from learning in Bates’ classrooms. In short, you become part of an academic aroma of different ideas and worldviews — one that ultimately challenges your old mindset and gives you a new perspective.

In most classes at Bates, professors usually emphasize the importance of a growth mindset at the beginning of a new semester. A growth mindset encourages students to believe that their abilities can enhance and develop through dedication, hard work and even by making and learning from their mistakes. In my three and half years at Bates, I have sensed that the class environment not only teaches you professional knowledge that will prepare you for the future, but also cultivates transferable skills and a mindset of thinking about everything in today’s society.

Bates is a relatively small, but inclusive, community that enables us to meet and interact with various types of people. In classes, some of our classmates’ thoughts, behavior and interactions with you also impact your own mindset in class. In this article, I would like to share several moments that changed my own mind in both academic and non-academic aspects of life.

The first moment I want to share is when Professor Grace Columbe taught us the importance of the growth mindset in the first two weeks of Math 110: Great Ideas in Mathematics during the 2023 winter semester. As a history major and education minor student, I did not have an abundant interest in math, so I did not excel at it. However, Quantitative and Formal Reasoning is one of Bates’ Modes of Inquiry, so I had to take one class to fulfill my major requirement.

Initially, I was still concerned that I might not perform well in Math 110 because of my lack of experience. During the first week of class, however, Grace spent half of the time discussing the growth mindset, accompanied with readings and reflection assignments. I wondered why a math class needed to include more educational focused content, such as assigning readings that directly discussed growth mindset as well as how mathematicians investigate their mathematical theories through growth mindset. After Grace discussed how a growth mindset would contribute to our learning progress, especially for students who are not familiar with collegiate-level math, I gradually understood her reasoning. If you keep being reluctant in learning new knowledge when facing difficulties, you will gradually doubt yourself and it will become more difficult to enhance your abilities.

Still, a growth mindset can change your attitude toward learning unfamiliar knowledge by leading you to practice, make mistakes and reflect on yourself for further improvements. Difficulties won’t make you give up but will actually push you to seek out new knowledge. For example, I began asking questions to my friends for peer learning and reviewing practice questions to understand how equations or concepts function in solving certain types of problems after Grace’s first week’s classes. This period changed my approach to learning completely unfamiliar knowledge. Instead of resisting and remaining confused, I chose this challenge and embraced it as my opportunity to grasp new knowledge.

Another moment I would like to share is my preparation for a group presentation in the history course, America in the 20th Century. I was supposed to work with a group of four students to complete the project. However, when we chose our topic and began dividing tasks, one of our group members suddenly disappeared. She never replied to our messages or emails and did not make any contributions to the PowerPoint. We spent most of our time, whether during in-class discussion or after-class meeting, figuring out how to get connected with her to proceed with the presentation.

The reason our group recognized the importance of this is because this presentation would be graded on everyone’s efforts before grading each individual’s performance. In other words, missing a group member would significantly lower our final grades. But we still could not get in contact with her four days before the deadline. Eventually, we all wrote an email to Professor Bernadino to request excluding that member from our group because we realized that waiting would not help our presentation and that the rest of us would need to reorganize our roles. After 24 hours, Professor Bernadino granted our request. But it also meant that we had to reconsider the structure and length of our presentation. Missing one person, each of our three group members would need to present more than before. Fortunately, we were all engaged in our group meeting in class and after class for working on the presentation, and we eventually received a satisfactory grade.

This experience made me realize that in future group work, it will be important to be ready for unpredictable changes. My teammate’s lack of response became the sudden change that made us panic. However, instead of panicking and failing to resume our original task, this moment from class encouraged me to think alternatively to find the way or an important person that can solve the problem. Plans will never catch up with changes, so we must always be prepared for something unexpected and keep ourselves calm to figure out an alternative solution.

From two moments above, I learned more beyond knowledge in the Bates Community. Sometimes we might have moments of confusion or struggle, either finding it difficult to understand new knowledge or concepts, or panicking due to an unpredictable change. As we graduate from college and enter adulthood, we may face similar challenges. But in the Bates Community, we might experience similar cases in class that challenge our existing understandings. However, as we face these “challenges,” we are also refreshing our minds because we are gaining experience from these moments and our new mindset will prepare us for future endeavors.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All comments must have an attached name and email. Please direct comments to the content of the article; attacking writers in any way, shape or form will not be tolerated. Any comments which do not meet these requirements will not be published.
All The Bates Student Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *