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Fostering resilience: preparing students for failure… August 20, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education.
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In the opening of an excellent article in the April 2010 issue of International School (is) magazine, Margaret Halicioglu considers practical ways we can help our students accept that some failure in life is inevitable

All good schools around the world are now addressing 21st century skills, teaching children problem-solving, cooperative learning, environmental awareness, understanding of and appreciation for the ideas and traditions of others. However, there is another skill which needs to be taught: how to be resilient in this dynamic world.

The vast majority of current first graders in most international schools will enter careers which currently don’t exist, using technology which hasn’t yet been invented. These children may have to change career up to five times in their lifetime, a situation which most teachers have neither experienced nor would want to.

Adapatability and resilience are crucial skills if our children are to be successful: emotionally, socially and professionally. It is an unfortunate fact of life that, just like us, our students are going to face situations where they feel unsuccessful. As J K Rowling said in her Harvard University commencement speech in 2008, “some failure in life is inevitable”. Working in Turkey’s top private school, where entry is restricted by a stringent national exam, where only the top 5% of Turkey’s 8th graders successful in this exam have the chance to enter Robert College, many of my students end up disappointed and frustrated by their apparent failure here.

Used to being the brightest student in their primary school, they are now one of 220 exceptionally bright students of the same age, and they face the fact that they cannot all be number one. This sense of failure may not seem as acute as a child in another school who, for example, has always been weak academically, who is used to getting poor grades and who struggles on a daily basis to understand what is going on in the classroom. However, both kinds of students may sink into depression and need help in learning how to be resilient, how to bounce back, and to learn from their real or perceived failure.

Teachers play an important role in showing students how to be resilient. If teachers can let their students know that they are worried about failing at something, even something as simple as mis-spelling a word on the board, then they are modelling the fact that it is acceptable to be worried about not getting something right.

To read the rest of Margaret Halicioglu’s excellent article, click here to visit the International School (is) magazine website. Margaret is Dean of Student Affairs, Robert College, Istanbul.

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