Despite the many roles I play in life, I spend most of my days at a school. With that comes moments of “are you sure you’re cut out for this line of work” only to be balanced with “I am one of the fortunate ones to love the work I do“. This often surprises me because I didn’t much like adolescence the first time so never would have guessed that I’d be working with this sub-species of humans.
Adolescence is a time of remarkable growth and change. As you may know, neuro-scientists, with the help of the MRI, have discovered that the teenage brain is still actively growing in complexity and efficiency. The most profound changes occur in the area that monitors judgement, decision-making, organization, impulse-control and, wait for it, emotion. As if I needed to tell you that!
This is a terribly confusing but also incredible time for students, parents and teachers. The potential for unparalleled learning and deep connection is right there in that amazing mess called the adolescent mind.
But how do you reach students who, by their very wiring, struggle with self-regulation, question the value of learning how to learn, can’t quite seem to connect well with others or easily loses their way in the fog of anxious uncertainty?
The answer is with resilient support.
Resilience is the art of the elegant rebound. It means getting up at least one more time than you have fallen down. And this is precisely what the administration, faculty and staff do here at my school every day here. We reach out, share, coach, advise, explain, instruct, listen, inform, engage, encourage and, occasionally, we badger. But what we do not do, is give up. Even against the odds.
No child is unreachable. No student is unteachable.
New neural connections in the teenage brain are being made all the time so we stay the course. We witness the acts of bravado and fragility but trust that we will prevail if we compassionately continue to communicate the power:
• of developing the practical skills of ‘learning how to learn’ and organization
• of thinking deeply and reflectively about issues facing our community and world
• of cultivating self-awareness & self-care as a crucial springboard for compassionate relating
• of growing in radical self-responsibility
Resilience begins with these mighty basics. This level of resilient support is modeled and offered by our whole community through:
• the daily greeting of students at the front door by our principal each morning
• teachers who know their students by name and most know siblings’ names, out-of-school extra-curricular activities and potentially even who the student is dating!
• teachers who set high academic expectations but who also negotiate assignment extensions from a place of grace and understanding
• staff who tirelessly keep the wheels of this place moving day after day, creating a space conducive to community, learning and engaging with each other
• guidance counsellors who sit with, walk alongside and dig deeper with students on key personal, academic and post-secondary issues
• a Resource Centre with a vision for grounding students in the life-long strategies of learning, helping students grow in academic self-confidence and provide academic accommodations to help all learners start the race of learning at the starting line
We don’t give up and we don’t go away.
Resilient support for students with brains and emotions in flux. That is what we do here. All of us together. And because we do this even when we face personal or corporate setbacks, this is why I love my job.