I get knocked down, then I get up again
Not just the wise words of Chumbawumba. In the Future-U framework, the first of the five key Future Literacies is Creativity and — as anyone who’s ever received a rejection letter knows all too well — a very significant part of creativity is bouncebackability, or in the old traditional language of everyone-who-speaks-English-but-is-not-a-sports-commentator, resilience. So can we, as educators, teach resilience?
Yes, you can teach it, but it requires not teaching. Or rather, it requires not intervening when things aren’t going right, but staying back and observing (while you pretend you’re not observing). In a classroom it’s tempting to step in and make things easier, but that’s what robs students of independence; without a strong sense of self AND the opportunity to gain confidence, we’re creating cotton wool children who are simply destroyed “in real life”. There must be boundaries, but there must be opportunities to test those boundaries in not-so-obvious ways, and consequences for overstepping. And above all, there must be communication.
It must always be clear why a student is being asked to perform a task (even if you don’t always give them the full story), and the consequences of not performing must be clear also. Eventually students will work these out on their own, do their own “risk/benefit” analysis, and make decisions. If their decision is not to complete an assessment, they must be allowed to fail and experience the results — and be allowed to atone only when it’s clear they understand where they made the mistake.
In short, we need to stop spoiling children. We blame parents when their children have a sense of entitlement without responsibility, but we do it too — to avoid conflict with students, parents, managers, politicians. To make our classroom life easier, because we have such a small window of opportunity and such rigid rules that we must abide by that it’s awfully hard to allow students to do the learning themselves. And I don’t mean learning the content. That’s the easy part.
Resilience needs to be encouraged from a much higher level than just the classroom, but without it we’ll end up with creativity only in a framework, invention only of different types of boxes, and students who are composite clones of parentsandteachers rather than free-thinking, fearless explorers.