Develop resilience through optimism

‘Optimism is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. When you want to build a muscle, you’ve got to keep using it.’
– Robin Roberts

As we move into the cooler, wetter and darker months of the year, coupled with the key assessment period of first semester, many of us forget the power of positivity in building success. Most students (and sometimes adults) focus on the result, the hassles and the challenges, and miss the importance of the journey. We can help adolescents to develop a sense of personal academic achievement by focussing on the big picture and personal growth goals rather than simply performance goals. When we encourage students to recognise their own improvements and mastery, we help them to consider their fortune in terms of their own efforts, thus establishing an internal locus of control.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is the time spent with students, staff and parents talking about and reflecting on their journeys and hearing their stories, wisdom and passion for life. What is often evident is that the more ‘positive people’ display much greater resilience in the face of disappointing news or challenging situations; be it missing out on something, receiving a poor grade, getting tired and stressed or a negative friendship issue. As I have mentioned before, parents, siblings, teachers and peers all play a massive role in helping students build positivity, but most of the grunt work needs to come from the individual. The more we can encourage young people to take responsibility for their own journeys and let them solve problems, deal with disappointment and allow for reflection from failure, the better. If we step in every time something doesn’t go to plan, we don’t allow them the chance to grow and build strategies to cope for themselves.

A powerful way we can help our kids is by supporting them to make multiple connections with a variety of peers and adults. Creating and fostering lots of relationships (offline as well as online) in different settings allows students the opportunity to see the world from multiple standpoints. We can help kids to feel a sense of positive self-concept by providing a broad range of experiences where they can discover which things come easily and which things require much more effort. A beautiful example of the power of creating different learning opportunities is this week’s wonderful Literature Festival. It includes a massive range of learning opportunities, teaching us that our relationship with literature does not have to be passive. We also have another wonderful new learning experience for our Year 7s in the last week of term, designed to focus on building a new way of thinking and encouraging students to be problem solvers and entrepreneurs. The week will be a terrific end to the semester and hopefully illicit a great deal of discussion around the dinner table each evening.

Another key event at the conclusion of Semester 1 is our Middle School Musical. This year the students are extremely excited to perform Matilda. The show’s key message that you can control your own story and that rebellion, self-belief and empowerment can defeat bullies is deeply moving. The Middle School Musical is the culmination of a great deal of hard work and commitment which illustrates how powerful learning takes place when students are engaged, excited, working hard and are present in the moment.

The Carey learning journey in Middle School is purposefully challenging, varied, fun and complex and provides so many opportunities for growth. The secret to getting the most out of all the opportunities is, as our Principal Mr Philip Grutzner succinctly challenges our students at the start of ever year, to ‘be respectful of yourself and all those around you’, ‘do you best’ and ‘take every opportunity presented’.

Michael Nelson
Head of Middle School