Monday, May 2, 2016

Resilience



I always say that I want my students to be resilient.

I think (in my head) that resilience is something you just get from moments of failure, of trying again. For feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Those things that make you stronger mentally to cope with the next challenge.

What I hadn't thought about was what do our students need that resilience for now in terms of their mental health.

This article looks at the mental health of New Zealand teenagers and the increased amount of teens taking medication for depression and anxiety.  The article was timely as I had just had a discussion with a dear friend of mine about her own teenage son and his battle (well more her battle) with what is clinical depression and what is just normal teenage emotional development.  I was horrified to hear that half of his friends are on anti-depressants. It made me wonder about quick fixes, trends and what on earth is happening????

The article suggests that the current generation of teenagers may not have the resilience to cope with increasing pressures or "triggers" of today's society.  I want to stop at the point and come back to my role as a teacher. Is the resilience I am trying to build in my classroom enough? Are the students who are in primary now better prepared for what's to come? Were our current teens "cotton-wooled" as the article suggests? Can I do more?

Then I read this awesome article on the Minecraft Generation from the New York Times. Here are these students who create their own problems for each other. One student quotes within his creative landscape: "The journey matters more than what you get in the end". And here we are back to one of my favourite things in education: Play.  The unpredictable nature of play, the social nature of play and the unmistakable way in which play can be a rehearsal for life. So how does this fit in with the resilience/mental health train of thought? Well in minecraft kids are constantly hacking the system and making it work for them, they negotiate and create their own communities, rules and manage resources. They are effectively solving the world's problems while playing a game (Seth Frey).

So our students are capable, and they have shown themselves to be capable and resilient problem solvers in these online gaming environments. So how can we use this to encourage our students to use their skills in the real world?  And if I/we are successful in building up resilience in the classroom environment how much of this will spill out into their "real world"?

Interestingly Francis Valentine from The Mindlab recently quoted in this article that what we are doing in education now will take another 6 years to see the impact. This will happen when our problem solving, critical thinkers begin university and start questioning (those practices?). So what I am interested in keeping in the loop with is the resilience of young people. Are we making a difference? And perhaps I too will have to wait 6 years to see those results... (hence my documentation of my thinking at this time).