Nurturing Resilience in Wellbeing
Education is a key determinant of a young person’s social and emotional development and is crucial for establishing a sense of identity and place in the world. Young people have the right to an education that effectively prepares them for the present and the future; that is high-quality, safe, supportive and meets their individual and diverse needs.
Education encompasses life-long learning that supports young people to develop socially, intellectually, physically and emotionally, as well as to engage in the complexities of life after school. Our mission statement clearly outlines this point:
To develop the intellectual, cultural, creative and spiritual capacities of young people so that they are empowered to embrace the future with confidence and compassion.
A key component in realising this mission statement is through nurturing resilience in wellbeing. Our lives are becoming more complex and stressful; therefore, we need to provide our students with a ‘toolkit’ to be able to handle these challenges and difficulties. Running away from them and avoiding them will not solve the problem.
Psychological resilience is defined by flexibility in response to changing situational demands, and the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. (Block & KreKremen, 1996). Resilience is at the heart of mental health and wellbeing. A school needs to reinforce the importance of challenge in the development of resilience by proactively seeking out opportunities for growth and development. This has been highlighted in one of my previous articles on ‘The Learning Pit’ where we need to challenge students regularly in class and through co-curricular activities, so they can develop a deeper understanding on difficult concepts through grit and perseverance. Parents, students and teachers should never forget that learning at its very essence has stress involved. Your success in life depends on how you deal with it.
Statistically we know that resilience creates an 18% increase in achieving stronger learning. We also know that clinical anxiety is a significant issue for our young people with 46% (Year Eleven students) and 59% (Year Twelve students) suffering from anxiety. Therefore, the challenge for schools is: how do we address these alarming statistics and effectively develop strategies to build resilience and minimise clinical anxiety?
Dr Andrew Fuller from the University of Melbourne is an outstanding educator who has researched and written extensively on nurturing resilience in wellbeing. He argues that there are THREE mindsets that young people adopt which include:
The Resilient Mindset 45%
The Anxious mindset 30%
The Avoidant mindset 25%
The Resilient Mindset is the ‘zone of proximal development’ where we want our young men and women to be most of the time. These students still get stressed BUT it doesn’t stop them from achieving their goals. They deal with setbacks and can manage their learning. They are more creative, master thinking routines and have flexibility in their memory and concentration. Fuller argues that it’s when students are in the zone of the resilient mindset that they can learn best and it is positive relationships that will allow us to keep ourselves and those relationships in the optimal zone.
Resilience is not about knowledge it’s about relationships. Resilient schools/families/people are places where people are connected, protected and respected.
Character development at Northholm focuses on developing skills and dispositions in building positive relationships with others. We have discussed with our students the importance of looking someone in the eye, with a firm hand shake, a confident posture, a smile and greeting others with warmth and respect. You can tell if a student has a resilient mindset by those qualities because they’re not doubtful or insecure about who they are.
At Northholm Grammar School, we recognise that the most important thing we have is a strong relationship between students, staff, parents and the wider community. The key is to create a culture based on positive relationships and you learn about it by being a member of that environment. A resilient culture is an inclusive culture. It’s one that values the student as both a learner and a person.
Only 65.5% of all young people tell us they have adults in their life who care about them. Even less, 62% report that they have adults in their lives who listen to them. While the majority of students nationally are engaged in school and feel connected to adults, imagine what the results would be like if we invested more significantly in positive relationships with our young men and women, so they can thrive and flourish.
We look forward to continuing to work with our families as we build the strength of our Northholm community. And I’m particularly pleased to say that we will be establishing a partnership with the University of Melbourne in our strategic direction for learning and wellbeing in 2020 with visiting educators in Dr Andrew Fuller and Dr Jared Cooney Horvath working with students, staff and parents at Northholm in nurturing resilience in wellbeing and strengthening our culture of learning and teaching.
Mr Christopher Bradbury