Toy cars, plastic rattles and soft squidgy animals. What toy should I give my son for his birthday? I drift to another question, “What gift could I give my son for life?”. I am reminded of William Henley’s poem Invictus; ‘It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. Grit, Resilience. Yes. Thats the one.
But why Resilience over the ever important Values or Discipline? Research by Angela Duckworth and Chris Peterson indicate that resilience, the ability to cope with difficulties and failures, when coupled an average intelligence, is the best predictor of success in areas like academics, workplace performance and even marriage staying power. There is a real need to develop resilience, so that our children may withstand the ever-increasing challenge of uncertainty that exists in their futures.
But how does one develop resilience? There are many, but let’s examine two methods. Firstly, we must provide opportunities for meaningful participation in life by allowing our young to plan, evaluate and implement projects of their own choice. Secondly, our young must reorient their concept of the mind, that it is not static and unchanging but able to recover, grow and improve.
At Fairview International School, students are empowered to plan and make important decisions inside and outside the classroom. From what to research and explore deeper after a basic concept is taught in class to projects by the student council, a body of students empowered to make recommendations that voice the opinions of the student body. A consistent practice of empowerment, coupled with adult supervision, throughout the learner’s educational experience leads to an understanding of choice and responsibility.
Fairview’s students go to Academic expeditions and travel to distant locations, like our Grade 10 students who went to Mulu, Sarawak. The challenges faced by students, especially those that attempted the “mini-pinnacles” combined with gentle reminders to maintain a growth mindset as they were a hairs breadth from giving up pushed them to succeed beyond their own perceived limits. Establishing goals before the challenge, recital of reaffirming mantras like “left foot, right foot” and a passionately sincere approach to supporting the learner by Fairview teachers leads to the development of a mindset called the “Growth Mindset” by Carol Dweck; the ability to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and improve themselves, and a belief that intelligence, personality and character can be developed.
To rise from the ashes like a phoenix from the flames, to face defeat with a stony resolve, to walk bravely down the moral path into an uncertain future. What does resilience mean to you?
By Dr Vincent Chian, Principal of Fairview International School KL