Building character – what does this mean? There’s been lots of news and blogs about this recently ~ along with real world learning apparently we should all be doing it in our lessons. Helping pupils prepare for life’s ups and downs, remain optimistic, and metaphorically get back up again when they fall. There is a Japanese saying Seven times fall down; stand up eight which I share with year 8 when they are choosing options, and ask them what they think it means.
Is it possible to “teach” resilience? I do think there are several different aspects and pointers to demonstrate to students, not necessarily in a dedicated lesson but as opportunities or needs arise during the year.
Firstly it is important to feel part of a community; use the support of others around you. Having just coped with an unexpected bereavement I can personally vouch for this. Nothing can actually immediately “make things better” but the support and kindness of friends and colleagues really helps you to get through a low time in your life. In a work scenario, friends can encourage and give honest feedback as well as unconditional support – it may be character building to go through hardships and trials, but there is no need to cope alone.
If you can help to build a sense of optimism in your students, a glass half full attitude, they will also be able to cope more easily with problems and setbacks in the short term. If you believe in a brighter future you will be more able to cope with difficulties in the present, as you can see past and not be totally consumed by the “end of the world”.
Having said this, it is important to keep expectations realistic so that the future is less likely to throw a surprise punch ~ just think of the early auditions for the X factor and how it seems unbelievable that some of the contestants are so unaware of their lack of talents. We do students a disservice to pretend that everything will always be fabulous all the time.
As well as having realistic goals, it is important to learn that these goals need to be flexible. Just because one aspect of your life changes, it does not mean that a goal is unachievable, but it may need altering. “When life gives you lemons, keep them because, hey, free lemons!:)” luke hemmings
If things do go wrong, we also need to teach how to use the experience to reflect, rather than looking back for a culprit; something or someone to blame, or even just a reason. Instead try to develop a more useful habit by considering What could I have done differently/better? Things could have been even better if…? How can I get back up, and resume moving in the direction I want to travel?
Finally, to steal the Boy Scout’s motto (am I showing my age here?), Be prepared. Being ready for a challenge, and as prepared as possible, will not only lessen the chances that something will go wrong in the first place, but if it does, allow you to recover and get back up again as quickly as possible.
So to sum up, I tried very hard to come up with an acronym for these. Probably not hard enough…
Sue’s Obvious Rules For Reinforcing Resilience
Support Optimism Realism Flexibility Reflection Readiness