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‘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 find ourselves in a remote learning mode once again, it is easy for us to forget the power of positivity in building success and helping us cope. In difficult times, some of us can find ourselves focussing on the hassles and the challenges, and although understandable, we sometimes miss the learning opportunities and the importance of the journey. Although it is certainly a little disconcerting, daunting and frustrating, at least we go into the next phase of our COVID–19 lockdown with a proven track record; our Principal, the teaching staff, students and parents (and pets) all did super job last time around. Researchers tell us that resilience is not about having some sort of disaster-proof stoicism and the ability to endure. Instead, it is how we take time to recover, regain strength and find ways to bounce back that helps us cope.

We can certainly help adolescents to develop a sense of resilience, calm, perspective, and personal achievement by focussing on the big picture and helping them create some small manageable goals rather than accentuating what is not working. 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. Last term was incredible if you break down what students, staff and families achieved, especially given the convergence of so many things and the untested nature of what we were doing. Staff showed great professionalism and were solution-focussed when trying to navigate the new online mode of learning; our students showed resilience, tenacity, creativity, good humour, friendship, imagination, emerging organisational skills, and independence; and parents illustrated kindness, huge levels of gratitude, insight, level-headedness, patience, understanding and a sense of calm. As a school, we also really valued and listened to the feedback of all stakeholders and have changed some of our practices accordingly. We are endeavouring to make new adjustments all the time – although I am sure you have some misgivings, frustration, apprehension and stress around the start of the term, I am really confident that we will make it work once again.

Throughout this challenging year it has often been the case that people with a positive outlook seem to display a much greater resilience in the face of a challenge, disappointing news, or tricky situations. 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 does not go to plan, we do not allow them the opportunity to grow and build strategies to cope for themselves.

We all see things differently. It is such a privilege though to work with so many families who see kindness, compassion and empathy as central to their ethos and understand that everyone is trying their best tackling one issue at a time to ensure our students get the most from their learning experiences. Equally, I am acutely aware that the challenges we are facing within the community, our employment and businesses and at home can have personal implications for everyone, adding to stress, sadness, anxiety and concern – if there is anything I can do to help, talk about or support you with please let me know. Try to find glimmers of joy in ‘Lockdown 2.0’, and I look forward to solving the challenges with staff, students, and families over the next couple of months.

Take care – stay safe.

Michael Nelson
Head of Middle School


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