Year 6 Welcome Evening: Resilience
Your children may have already, or will soon, come home with an “All About Me” form to fill in. One of the questions on the back page is ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?’ The children have the chance to answer and parents may comment too. I was wondering about this and thought about my own two children who are roughly the ages yours will be in 10 years’ time – my son is in second year at university and my daughter in Upper 6th.
What I want for my children now is very different to what I may have answered 10 years ago. I urge you to give some thought to this question because answering it allows you to zoom out and perhaps focus on what is really important. What we all want is for our children to be whole and happy and we want to know that they have the inner reserves to deal with challenges that life throws at them. That resilience training starts now.
As form teachers in Year 6, we would like to focus this year on building resilience in the children we teach. We use growth mindset language in lessons and intend to use structured form times, as well as informal contact times, with our pupils to reinforce the idea of resilience.
Why do we need to build resilience?
When students have resilience
- they are open to learning because they believe that they can learn and improve
- they are receptive to assistance and coaching because they will not see it as a criticism of their abilities
- they are comfortable not understanding concepts immediately, or not mastering skills immediately, because they see learning as a pursuit of knowledge and know that motivation and effort are just as important as knowing how to do something
- they are happier (and we know that happy children are more emotionally available for learning)
Why particularly now?
Year 6 is a challenging year in many ways. There is a lot going on – entrance exams, physical changes, friendships reconfigurations, thinking about the future etc. They are going to need to bounce back from disappointments or setbacks. We want to encourage skills that will be required as they become more independent, deal with change and move into more demanding environments.
What can you do to help?
When your child comes home with a problem or is upset about something, there are a number of things that you could do to turn that situation into a learning opportunity.
Reframe the situation – Once at the white doors one afternoon, I overheard a mum asking her daughter about her day. The daughter replied that it had been a horrible day because they had played hockey in the cold and it was drizzly and she was wet and it wasn’t fun. The mum sympathised and said that that must have been awful and that she hoped her daughter didn’t catch a nasty cold because that would ruin their weekend. I watched them walk away. Just then another mum and daughter were leaving and again, the mum asked her daughter about her day. The daughter said the same as the first child – she had had to play hockey and it was cold and she got wet. This time however the mum’s response was very different. She said, ‘Oh, playing hockey in the rain! It’s a good thing you’re not made of sugar!’ Her daughter laughed and the two of them walked off to the car. Both girls had the same experience, but their mums’ responses made for a very different outcome. By interpreting the event in the positive, it allowed the child to put the experience in perspective and I wouldn’t be surprised if next time her daughter had played in the rain, she would tell her friends that she was pleased she wasn’t made of sugar. Her mum had reframed the event.
It may be annoying if you are perpetually optimistic, so listen first but then try to cast the situation in a more positive light. Teach your child that it is fine to have a bad lesson or a bad match but not to let that grow into a bad day or bad week etc. Encourage them to reframe too.
Listen don’t fix – help your child think about what they can do to bounce back. Our children want to be heard, rather than rescued. When we bail them out, we are teaching them that they are not enough. This can be disempowering and robs them of the opportunity to grow. When children find solutions themselves, it builds their self-esteem which is vital for building resilience.
Sometimes we swoop in because we are uncomfortable with struggle. I remember being on playground duty when my son was in Year 3 and seeing him sitting all by himself, while all the other boys were playing with a ball. I sidled up to him and asked him why he wasn’t playing. He told me that the boy who had the ball could decide who was in the game and my son had been told that he couldn’t play. My heart broke. After break, I phoned my husband and asked him if he would be able to pop out to the shops and buy Daniel a ball and drop it off at school, so that he would have it for lunch break! I’m not proud of this story. I swooped in and rescued, because I was uncomfortable with seeing my son on his own. He didn’t need to be rescued. At best, I should have left him to sort it out himself or if necessary, later chatted about a few ways he might have handled the situation differently if it bothered him.
Reinforce the message that it is ok to find something difficult, that it’s ok for them to get things wrong, struggle to find an answer, get into trouble, experience consequences. On that note, receiving a yellow card is not fatal. It is an opportunity to reflect and find a better way. Struggle, mistakes, discipline is not just ok – it’s important, valuable, necessary.
Model resilient behaviour – children are sponges, let them see you struggle and persevere, use language of resilience at home.
With us working on building resilience in class and on the field and parents supporting us at home, I trust that this will be a year in which we see your children grow and flourish.