Friday, 27 June 2014

Bouncing back


The term resilience is currently in vogue in educational establishments in the UK. Teenagers mental health issues are rising and there is a distinct inability to use inner grit or resilience to deal with academic failure. So I was delighted to find a teaching school locally that was running an entire day on this with Tanya Byron and Phil Beadle presenting. Luckily I was able to complete a staff training form linking this to the current issues must able students (my remit) are experiencing. So I was on the course.

Phil Beadle launched the day and did not disappoint. Bouncebackability was my lasting new term. Stress and failure is not bad for us as long as we can learn to control it. Having a fear of snakes I must thank Phil for warning the audience at a key point. It was a case of freeze, flight or fight. I chose to freeze and not watch the pictures. Good choice. Apparently this lack of resilience to stress by teenagers is due to their animalistic response. It closes their options down. If they were used to risk taking they would be more positive and be able to have a creative menu if responses to situations. I refer you to the snakes, I could only freeze and try to keep breathing.
Now according to Phil if I were a defeatist I would create actions which would be self fulfilling. If I fail in teaching a good lesson or I get a bad exam grade then I will maintain that type of approach.
However the optimist will view failure and stress in another way - blame themselves as they are the only part of the situation they can change! So year 9 last lesson on a Friday. I can be self defeatist, the lesson will go badly and I fulfil the prophecy. Or change my demeanour, attitude and create a positive learning environment they will engage with. :)
To translate this optimism to students does require realistic optimism to ensure resilience. My golden nugget from the keynote was: to deal with fear and build resilience- deal with what you know, not what you imagine. What people don't know worries them and then they cannot be resilient.

I will admit an hour on meta-cognition was a challenge. Phil was on top form recognising that we were having to find meta-cognitive managing strategy not to walk out. What about students? Do we need to scaffold and give them ways to build their own meta-cognition? I'm going to try the handy meta-cognition planning tool in September with my new Year 10. Start the linear course with a plan for building resilience into planning, activities and homework. The golden nugget from this session was: students need to over learn so that there is automaticity. Having experienced years of MFL speaking exams this is an area where automaticity is lacking. So there is my learning objective for y10&11.

A well earned lunch break (reflection time) then Tanya Byron. I recently ran an assembly where I spoke about how the students were being labelled as generation zombie. Tanya started her talk with the idea of captivity. We are raising a generation of kids in captivity. No more free range, risk taking kids. Captivity is breeding dependency. As a result kids cannot manage risk or failure.
Mirroring Phil's talk Tanya outlined Carol Dweck's work on teen angst. There are image maintainers. The students who plod along too afraid to push harder to gain higher grades incase they fail. If we continue to push they will have an animalistic response and shut down. Like me with Phil's snake images.
So how do we get past this angst and develop resilience. Help students understand the physical response to stress. Neuroplasticity key times during schooling at early years and puberty. This is the prime time to ensure there are chances to fail in a safe environment. This is the chance to desensitise the student by making them do what worries them. If not then they won't build resilience.

IQ is only 25% of success. EQ will power through. By building healthy, cognitive, socially, capable, creative and intelligent kids - society will have a resilient generation. 

I certainly had a lot to consider after 2 keynote talks and 2 workshops. Now to write this year's development plan to ensure resilience has a key role. Not forgetting my own bouncebackability.

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