So, a couple of months ago, this cat shows up at our house. Walks out of the woods, sneaks in a door that the painter left open and plants itself on the pillows at the head of our bed. The kids come home, see the cat, and within minutes have a complete feeding and grooming schedule for the next three months, coupons for litter box cleaning, and promises to vacuum the whole house every other day since, you see, dad happens to have been allergic for most of his life. Well, maybe it’s time to give a pet a try, we think (since dad’s allergies seem to have been abating lately anyway) and so it’s off to the vet. It’s a Siamese. A neutered male. About 14 years old. Declawed in the front. And it’s got fleas.
Undaunted, Dad runs to the local office superstore to pick up a litterbox of some type (don’t ask) while mom and the kids put the cat through the ringer (literally) in the bathtub with flea soap offered by the vet. They leave the tick pulling job for later when dad can do it, however. Pillows and sheets are fumigated. “Found Cat” posters are created and distributed. The next few days, things are mixed; cat is litterbox trained (Yay!), but after chowing down a couple of cans of StarKist tuna on the day of his arrival, he throws up everything he eats for the next three days (Boo!). But things settle down, and we enter this pretty peaceful, flealess co-existence with “Oreo” who seems happy enough just to have two squares and a heater to sleep next to for 22.5 hours a day. This might work, dad thinks.
A couple of weeks later, the cat (who dad and mom have renamed “Catatonic”) begins waking up at precisely 5:34 each morning, emitting a quasi screech/howl that requires dad to get up and kick the cat out of the bedroom, leaving the cat to screech/howl on the other side of the door 10 minutes on, ten minutes off (just enough to let us fall back asleep) until we finally succumb and roll out. Soon, the cat starts the night outside of the bedroom, where screech/howling then begins at 3:45, one night prompting dad to get up and sleepily retrieve a piece of plywood and a old screen door frame from the freezing cold garage to fashion a gate that would keep Catatonic in the doorless dining room, farther away from the bedroom and out of earshot. Of course, just as dad gets back to sleep, Catatonic shoulders through the “barrier” with relative ease to take up screech/howling in front of the bedroom for the rest of the night as dad and mom pile pillows over their heads. (Children, btw, are fast asleep in their beds upstairs through all of this.) The gate building continues to get more complex, as does the cat’s ability to punch through, jump over, get around. One early morning, when the kids are at sleepovers, mom gets up and throws (not literally, of course) the cat upstairs, shuts the door, and we finally get peace. Both wakeup realizing that mom didn’t throw the litterbox upstairs with the cat, and sure enough, son comes running down the stairs that night screaming “EEEEWWWWWWW! Something smells in my closet!”
This weekend, we consruct the ultimate plywood, screen door, piano bench, bamboo stick, bar stool, aluminum foil (cats hate that, right?) barrier imaginable. Dad thinks about taking pictures and posting them to Flickr, it’s such an example of innovation and beauty. Mom and dad give each other a knowing wink before turning out the light. Peace at last.
Until about 4:30 am.
So I’m reading this book, Mindset by Carol Dweck which talks about the two types of minds that people have and how it affects the way we learn. There is the fixed mindset which believes that intelligence is pretty much static and that there’s not much you can do to get smarter. So these people avoid challenges and give up easily, ignoring feedback and feeling threatened when others succeed. Because of this, they don’t realize their own potentials. And then there is the growth mindset which says that intelligence is not static and can be developed. A growth midset loves challenges and is persistent in the face of hardships. It is focused on effort, it learns from feedback, and it finds inspiration from others. People with a growth mindset go beyond expectations and achieve at ever higher levels.
Any doubt which mindset Catatonic has? (Now our kids on the other hand…)
I’m going to blog more about this as I think it through, but for now, all I know is I want my kids (and my kids teachers) to be like Catatonic. (Not the sleeping part, of course.) I haven’t gotten to the part of the book that runs through how we can move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, but I’m expecting it to tweak my thinking about teachers and technology and my own approach to teaching it. And I’m going to be thinking about my own mindset, which is a mix right now, I think.
We’re trying to find Catatonic a good home. (After this narrative, I’m sure I won’t get many offers.) But for now, I’ll be holding him up as an example of learning perseverance for my kids.
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