Certain words and phrases in education have, in recent times, been applied so far and widely to have become almost meaningless. ‘Engagement’ and ‘wellbeing’ are my top two, but ‘resilience’ is hot on their heels. ‘Vulnerability’ is a good bet to take over in time, but but for now it’s well back in the field, alongside ‘higher order thinking’ and ‘the 5 Cs’.
I like the Elizabeth Edwards version, defining resilience as accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. This is how we cope with bereavement, or the break-up of a relationship. Ask any alcoholic (presumably before 11am) and they will tell you: the first step to solving your problem is acceptance that the problem exists. Being resilient requires one to take the rough with the smooth (or, in the words of Mellors the gardener, Tha mun ta’e th’ rough wi’ th’ smooth). Life can turn on a sixpence; we should never get too high when the going is good, lest we increase the depth of the fall when things take a turn for the worse. Keeping one’s emotional amplitude to a minimum is a sensible way to ensure resilience.
In a School context, we should praise genuine resilience when we see it; that which Iain Dowie coined ‘bouncebackability’. We should praise anything that is praiseworthy. But we should also be cautious about over-praising, lest it loses its validity. Praising children for not misbehaving on School trips was always a personal annoyance. My general rule was never to praise those who carry out standard expectations; save the praise for when individuals have done something exceptional; something out of the ordinary.
Which brings us to this, produced by the SACE board and featuring various SACE co-ordinators, presumably as a gee-up to children across the state that their collective ‘backs’ have been well and truly ‘got’. It is a solid example of over-praising. A secondary point is why some of them decided to chose *that* background to their clip, but perhaps we’ll never know:
Students in South Australia have missed approximately one week of teaching time, and may have had another week or two of teaching done remotely. The current global pandemic causes us all to worry, but there are few better places to be in the world than South Australia, and the level of resilience we have needed to show is far less than many countries around the world. Disruption has been minimal, and though the level of uncertainty has been high, most of the heavy lifting has been done by teachers, not students.
I have a high opinion of the boys I teach. I think they are perfectly capable of coping with a couple of weeks of learning at home. I think they require a degree of reassurance, but also clarity of instruction and expectation. I do not think the Covid-19 experience will either break or define them, which makes this comment from the video above:
I’ve no doubt that in a few years time, you’ll be one of the most innovative and resilient group (sic) of young people…
an example of serious over-stretching.