The pressure many primary and secondary students find themselves under nowadays as they go through their primary, MYP, DP and CP courses is immense.
Gone are the days of governments trying to fill their university places by tempting students with grants, or of graduates happily taking jobs at home whilst searching for the “right” position elsewhere.
Thanks to our fast-paced lifestyles and the ability (whether good or bad) to use social media to permit our voyeurism into the lives of others, the goals we set ourselves nowadays are rising steadily higher. The same anxieties develop in students, who see successful people with every scroll and often feel that their lives do not compare.
To contrast this disheartenment, educators must help their students develop resilience. Equipped with the right tools, students will be better prepared to face the challenges that come their way and more set to achieve their full potential.
How can we do this?
One of the most essential things we, as teachers, can do is to make school a place where students feel they have positive, meaningful relationships. If they feel encouraged and supported during their early years, they will be able to open up more in times of difficulty and try even harder during times of empowerment.
Sound difficult? I promise, it isn’t.
Students are as human as adults, and need the same signs from others telling them that their efforts are appreciated, that they’re doing the right things. Simply valuing and highlighting a student’s skills, as we would like others to do for us, whilst also being constructive when discussing areas in which they have more difficulty, has a bigger impact than we think. No one likes to feel useless, so educators are very privileged to have a real chance to change that.
Let’s reconnect - with the world and with ourselves.
How? Sports, skills and engagement with the local community are great ways to boost students, giving them something concrete to feel proud of. The community, action, service (CAS) component of the IB Diploma programme is a fantastic tool to get pupils to participate in these extra-curricular activities. It demands they go out and make a difference to someone in their local area, whether it be helping in a care home or assisting a teacher with their clubs, or develop a non-academic skill or move, all at least once a week.
Whether they realise it or not, through fulfilling these requirements, students are building up their bank of positive experiences and attributes to fall back on when times get tough. In an age where so much social interaction happens online, it has become infinitely more important to add real, human interaction back into life. Sports, skills practice and engaging with the local community will help strengthen these roots and relationships, having far greater effects than it might seem.
And what if we … disconnect?
I’m aware that’s a scary, radical thought nowadays. However, when we’re constantly being stimulated by messages and updates, we don’t realise how much we can gain from being still. Moments of calm are when we can reconnect with our thoughts. With the constant distractions of technology, we lose this, and thus the time to reflect, when in reality, this awareness actually helps us respond better to the situations that arise in our daily lives. Promoting the benefits of tech-free time to develop self-awareness is again one of the best things we can do for our stressed-out young people. What’s more, we should probably be leading by example.
Remember that whatever can help our students to develop their resilience can help us too. As the future course of this planet continues to fluctuate, resilience is a tool we could all benefit from.