…we are so pressured for time and so keen that children succeed that we forget that to be resilient children need to overcome failure…
According to Google’s dictionary – Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
It’s a term we mention frequently in schools. In many schools, they refer to “the 4 R’s” linked to Building Learning Power (devised by Guy Claxton for more information see http://www.tloltd.co.uk/building-learning-power/professor-guy-claxton/)
e.g. from Cannon Lane Primary School (http://cannonlaneprimary.org/the-4rs/)
- Resilience– this encourages learners to manage distractions and resist giving up, to ensure they maintain positive views of themselves as learners
- Resourcefulness– learners are persuaded to use a range of learning strategies and not to rely solely on the teacher
- Reflectiveness– learners are encouraged to consciously think about their own learning, to use appropriate learning vocabulary, to plan their learning and to assess their own work
- Reciprocity – learners can learn effectively in groups so are taught to identify circumstances when it is advantageous to work with others and when to work on their own
Over this last week I have been looking after my 14-month-old grandson and it made me wonder at what point do we have to start “teaching” resilience. I have watched him stand up, take 2 steps, stumble, sit, and repeat for long periods of time. Equally, at meal times he gets his spoon and fork and works at getting the food to his mouth – when I used another spoon and scooped some food and tried to feed it to him he was quite emphatic – NO! He wanted to do it himself – we have a wonderful video of him feeding himself a yoghurt with a fork (the spoon he’d originally been given on the plate on his high chair). It may not be the way I’d have done it, it may not have been the fastest way to eat the yoghurt but he stuck at it and eventually it was effective. He was happy. We did not have to “teach” him to stick at it and he rejected the “easy” option of me feeding him. When and why does this inbuilt resilience disappear?
On social media today I saw a poster that said
Cut it for me
Write it for me
Open it for me
Set it up for me
Draw it for me
Find it for me
All I learn is: You do it better than me
Perhaps this is where the resilience disappears; we are so pressured for time and so keen that children succeed that we forget that to be resilient we need to overcome failure – that is what resilience is. To overcome failure we need to be allowed to fail. When we step in too soon we are reducing resilience, we are in effect saying to children what you are doing is not good enough. There is definitely a case for offering support – I have walked around my house for many hours this week letting my grandson hold onto one finger as he walked, encouraging him to let go and still being there when he wanted to try again but if I picked him up and carried him every time he fell would that actually help him learn to walk?
As a teacher it is lovely to mark a page of work and be able to put lots of ticks but if every child in your class has a complete page of ticks have we actually been a good teacher or did they already know it? If every child has a page of work with no mistakes have we really stretched them to increase their knowledge, understanding and application?
We do need to teach children facts and skills and how to apply them, we also need to teach how to cope when things get tricky – very few of us go through life without some failures including in exams, driving tests or job interviews.
We do need to encourage children, using specific praise – they need to experience some success and to feel a sense of achievement so that they want to continue trying. We do need to offer appropriate support which can be gradually withdrawn so that they feel that the task is achievable. We need to be confident enough to let them fail so that the inbuilt resilience that they had as toddlers is not eroded. It is often hard to see children fail even in small ways but perhaps if we don’t erode their resilience we won’t have to teach it again when they grow older.