In light of some reading I managed to do on the plane, and considering recent global events, as well as events which may occur in our students’ lives in future weeks which they may find challenging, I thought this week it may be worth discussing resilience.
Research has established that resilience is essential for humans to thrive. It is necessary for the development of healthy, adaptable young people. It’s what enables children to emerge from challenging experiences with a positive sense of themselves and their future. Children who develop resilience are better able to face disappointment, learn from failure, cope with loss, and adapt to change. We recognise resilience in children when we observe their determination, grit, and perseverance to tackle problems and cope with the emotional challenges of school and life. Our role in schools is to attempt to develop resilience skills within our students.
No matter how hard we may try, life isn't perfect. Every day cannot be sunny; our relationships with others cannot always be smooth - and there are days where (no doubt for students as well as staff) life can be challenging. However, it is how we react to those less-than-perfect situations that give insight into our individual development.
Our students spend a significant portion of their time at school, so it provides a worthy context within which to examine resilience and actions we can take to develop this trait further. A relevant example for some of our students may be their first day back after examinations. They may receive their first exam result and it has gone drastically wrong – a misinterpreted question, or an examination instruction not followed properly. All of a sudden the student may feel as though disaster is imminent. Talk between classes may be negative and there is the potential for a downward spiral to develop.
How then can our students address this? First, a conscious effort must be made to ensure the self-talk is positive and reaffirming. Examples may be ‘I am confident in my revision for other subjects’ or ‘I always perform well in my favourite subject’. Second, thoughts must go beyond the current ‘disaster’ and begin focusing on the future, where the problem no longer exists. Third, forget trying to point fingers and assign blame. Students will benefit from focusing on the future – ‘two more exams to go’ or ‘I now have targets for future improvement for next time’ or ‘I won’t make that mistake again’.
Affirmations are an important tool for our students to use. These are simply present-tense statements of fact - about the future. Students must believe that through their attitude and effort they have the ability to impact future performance. Useful affirmations include ‘I have the tools around me to get support for my individual subjects’ or ‘I was successful in some of my exams so I can apply the same processes to my poorer performances and improve in the future’.
The important thing is to have our minds firmly fixed on the future, the future without the current challenge. Our mind moves you toward the most dominant picture. If all you are thinking about is the current "disaster," then you won't be able to move forward. The more affirmations we undertake, the clearer the future picture, and performance, becomes.
As a skill we have discussed resilience in an individual setting, but it is also one which has a much wider application on our lives.
Every year, the world sees its share of disasters and the most recent events in Manchester certainly highlight this. In each instance, the aftermath has been almost unbearable to watch. We feel a lack of control and an inability to prevent these events from occurring. We need to take care of how our minds approach coping with disaster. Rebounding from disaster takes a conscious effort to control our self-talk in order to remain positive. Looking beyond ourselves by helping others, assists in aiding our own positive self-talk. Making the effort to visualise what our worlds will look like, once the current situation is fixed, provides a path to follow. Reinforcing that vision with positive affirmations goes a long way towards avoiding the pitfalls of a downward spiral.
And one more important thing about resilience: Letting others help you, as you help others, creates a sense of community. The knowledge that we can work together to solve problems is a powerful thing, which only provides a further foundation to build our resilience.
Mr Brad Evans
Head of Senior School
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