Children today have amazing opportunities for learning not only through school but also through technology, travel, and the ability to connect easily with others from around the globe. Amidst all the opportunities also come expectations and pressure. Our society has an inbuilt "fear of failure" and the social mobility of previous generations has placed our children under immense pressure to succeed in a very competitive school, university, and work environment.
Added to this mix is access to 24/7 information and communication. Through a plethora of social media, we all want to exhibit success and share a vision of fulfilling lives crammed with amazing experiences, even when our day has been anything but wonderful.
When you consider all this, how can we support our children and help them build resilience and an awareness of self that is not dictated by the judgment and aspirations of others? For me, it is about taking a step back and ensuring our children know that we care more about them than their achievements and that we love them regardless of their successes or failures. I wish I could write that I do this well for my own children. I don’t! I get caught up in my own definitions of success, in how others will view my children, and in the demands of my work schedule.
But perhaps facing a challenge, experiencing a failure and making a mistake without us, as parents and teachers, jumping in to "fix" it, is exactly what is needed. We cannot shelter our children from every challenge or avoid mistakes for them, but rather we can see the potential for authentic learning that each challenge brings or deal with mistakes and/or failure in the way Mandela did when he stated, “I either win or I learn.”
What better way to provide the learner with ownership of the learning process than by letting them determine how they will rise to meet a challenge, how they will rebound after a failure, or how they will reflect on what they have learned from a mistake.
How amazing would it be if we defined success by how we face adversity or how we reflect and learn from a mistake or failure rather than just the straight As in a report card or acing a test? And imagine going even further, by being part of a principled, open-minded and compassionate community that values this process of growth and awareness above short-term success.
By Bryan Nixon
Head of School