After my Resilience post I was privy to an interesting conversation between two of my virtual friends on Twitter who were discussing the ideas of Resilience, one is a Head of Department for Modern Foreign Languages and the other a Psychologist and specialist in supporting primary schools with their behavior issues.
From @TheNurtureLady. Why
#RelationshipsMatter in education. “The power & necessity of relationships as foundational in learning & self-regulation is largely forgotten. We attempt to fill the minds of children, while missing the vast resourcefulness of their heart & soul” Then she posts this link from Why Relationships Matter
I read the article and what I take away from this is that children develop their right side of their brain first. This is the part that makes connections with imagination, discovery, empathy, feelings, it the part that is nurtured from birth, that makes connections with human “beings”. It is what makes gives us our instincts, it creates our safe space. The academic left brain comes after… the doing brain.
Now how does this link with Resilience? Well if you are nurtured, made to feel safe, cared for, not to put to fine a point on it LOVED. All those basic human needs are being met by the adults in your life. Then you learn trust, you learn warmth. You were praised when you took those first faltering steps but you know that you will be picked up when you fall down, brushed off, maybe a little kiss applied to the sore spot but told, it was OK to try again, so try again you did, as you tottered to open arms.
When you were learning to talk, you babbled and mumbled, and made odd noises but the adult who you were connected to laughed and smiled at you, and made the correct sounds, told you the correct word and you tried again, got it right and there were claps and smiles and more hugs and kisses, hopefully.
You eventually progressed to things like bike riding, swimming and each time that you didn’t quite get there there was encouragement, gentle persuasion to have another go, but you know all the time there were open arms, warm towels, plasters at the ready and smiles and praise when you were successful, no matter how long it took before you finally were able to ride without stabilizers, or swim that full length. All this came from those adults who were the constant in your life.
So here your own natural resilience was being built upon and you were learning that a human being can be resilient and it was OK to fail, adults were there to catch you and encourage you to have another go, no matter what, even if it was hard, or seemed impossible, no matter how hard you stamped your feet, or refused to go again. Gentle but firm, never wavering, always encouraging, building your resilience, through your connections with them.
Now what if?
What if you didn’t have that adult in your life who did those things? What if the adult in your life wasn’t able to perform those connections? What if the adults in your life left you to cry when you woke up and you realised that not matter how loud you cried no one came. What if nobody picked you up when you fell, so you didn’t bother to try again. Or the only time they picked you up was to dump you out of the way. What if you never had those early conversations with the adults in your life? What if you were never taught to ride a bike, you had to learn yourself, what if you never learnt to swim?
What if the only connections you have made with the adults in your life have been ones where you have had to do the lions share of the caring for others, or looking out for yourself?
Would you trust adults, to take care of you? OK so maybe you say that this child has built resilience because they had to. But is it the right kind? Is is built out of connection to humankind? or is it built out of pure survival?
Now you put that child in a classroom and you want it to learn, French, algebra, geography, social science, physics, et al. The teachers struggle with this childs’ resilience, they give up when it gets hard. The don’t get why they need all that stuff!
I can see why they don’t want to try, “What is in it for them”? how will they trust you? How will they make a connection to you? to the subject, when they don’t know how to trust and connect with adults, as all they have done is be let down by them all their lives. (Even if this was unintentional by the adult due to circumstance). It’s not all their fault, it’s because their right side of their brain doesn’t know how to do it. They haven’t been given the opportunity to develop resilience in a safe way without the threat factor.
So how do we modify our practice to make and allow for connections in our classroom? How do we build trust? How do we foster the learning of the right kind of resilience?How do we create safe spaces, for children to explore, imagine, discover, yet still stay on track with the curriculum. This is the conundrum.
As my friend the HOD Who’d be a teacher eh?