Why “Resilience” needs to be more than just a buzz word in education

Young people face very different pressures from the ones that our generation faced while growing up.  Not only do they have to compete for the best jobs with people from all over the world, they have to do this in a more challenging economic environment and in a more dangerous world.  Added to this is the social pressures brought on by social media and the ability and demand to be in contact 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our young people are living in demanding and highly pressurised times.

This is why it is important to actually teach students how to cope in this new fast paced world.  We need to equip them with the skills to cope with setback and failure and bounce back stronger and more competitive.  We need to train them to work, interact and socialise with real people and most importantly of all we need to teach them how to look after their mental health and wellbeing.

At my current school I have set out to try and deliberately teach resilience.  We have a number of programmes that are part of the taught curriculum and the additional activities programme, in order to develop resilience in young people.  Some of these are designed to develop a physical and mental toughness whereas others are designed to teach students how to reflect, focus and find a calmness in their lives.

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We have a well-established and growing ‘Learning Through The Outdoors’ programme in which students take part in outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, kayaking and gorge walking, on a fortnightly basis, in order to build up their physical strength and teach them skills such as team work and leadership in challenging and unfamiliar environments.  They are deliberately placed in carefully managed risk environments to test and develop their physical and mental toughness.

This year I have invested significant resources in training my staff to deliver Mindfulness as part of our curriculum.  From September all students at Myddelton College will be taught mindfulness by fully trained teachers.  They will also have opportunities to take part in additional mindfulness activities such as meditation and yoga.  These are designed to teach our students to regulate and manage their emotions and to provide them with the clear thinking space needed when faced with challenges.

In addition, we encourage competitiveness in the sporting arena.  Competition has become frowned upon in education and schools but it is an important part of life. Those who are not trained and accustomed to being competitive will quite simply not be equipped to succeed.  But along with competitiveness comes sportsmanship, compassion, teamwork and leadership. Learning how to fight back from the clutches of defeat in the sporting arena helps to build the experience of resilience that can be useful in later life.

Mark Roberts