Dan Haesler’s new collection of writings (#SchoolOfThought) arrived in the mail this week, and was a quick read over the long weekend.
I’d heard Dan speak a couple of years ago at TAFE’s Northern Sydney Institute and I’ve been following his blog for a while. He has a lot to say about student wellbeing – in areas such as positive psychology, resilience and growth mindsets. As well as doing a fair bit of public speaking he works with schools and related organisations to promote positive learning environments.
The book is a grab bag of posts and short articles, and the overall effect on me was a reminder that as educators we need to respect students and help them develop strategies to develop and protect their emotional, social, physical and mental wellbeing. These are the same strategies that will help them be successful students.
For me one of the strongest concepts in this area is resilience. Resilience refers to a person’s abiity to bounce back after adversity. It also helps us move beyond our comfort zone, to take risks, to see challenge as an opportunity and to learn from failure and try again.
Back in 2004 I developed some multimedia resources as part of a national resilience program for schools and one of the experts we worked with was Helen Cahill, now Associate Professor at the Australian Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne.
I leant some practical tips from Helen that have been useful in many contexts, not least in parenting.
She said that negative self talk- I’m no good at this, Nobody will like me , Everyone else can, They are just saying that can become not only a bad habit but also a self-fulfilling prophecy. The basketball player who aims for the goal saying to themselves I am going to miss this probably will.
I have long believed that visualising success is an effective strategy for getting something right, and Helen’s work reminded me that the reverse is also true – visualising failure is taking one step closer to failure.
Helen emphasised positive self talk as a strategy, and devised class activities to help students pin down negative thoughts and reinterpret them. See Mind Matters 2005.
Of course there are many important aspects for building resilience in schools – positive self talk is just one strategy. Oter important aspects include providing a sense of belonging through positive relationships, setting boundaries and having high but realistic expectations.
Dan’s blog posts and articles touch on many aspects of resilience and wellbeing more generally, as well as topical and meaty issues such as the Gonski report, a school’s digital footprint, Opportunity classes and innovation in schools.