Dealing Directly – Resilience is what Kids Really Need
I was reminded about the power of resilience by Belinda Luscombe’s article in Time Magazine “Failure is Not a Bad Option – Resilience helps kids more than high SATs do.” She notes “Can schools teach grit? … the wealthy kids don’t see enough [failure] to learn resilience, and the poor kids see too much of it to learn persistence.”
So what can I do to encourage resilience in my wealthy students?
Here’s one small policy change I’m implementing – if there is a problem, students first have to deal with me directly. I will no longer enter into long e mail exchanges and counselor meetings to resolve a problem before meeting with my student. After the first rude parent e mail of the year, demanding that I change her daughter’s grade, I’m personally motivated too.
By 8th grade, it’s time for students to gather up their courage and speak to an authority figure themselves. I’m teaching them how to approach a difficult conversation – assume that an honest mistake may have been made. Bring your evidence. Be curious rather than demanding, etc. Stuff which will be so helpful when dealing with the IRS, phone company and their boss. And I’m promising to be even with them – we’ll resolve the problem together. If we don’t or can’t, THEN parents and counselors can get involved.
Having parents fix all their problems, is a real problem for young adults launching into college and the working world. It leads to a loss of self-efficacy, a loss of confidence that they can ride life’s bumps, and the joy that goes with that. Think mountain bike flying over rough ground. How cool is it to be good enough at biking, or skiing, sailing or whatever, to know you can make it if you relax a little and ride? That it’s sort of fun adapting to what the world throws at you. It’s not a threat, it’s a challenge.
How’s that for justifying this response to parent e mails “Dear ___, Thank you for alerting me to the issue. Please have your son/daughter see me in class and we’ll sort it out. Warmly, Sue Boudreau” If their son/daughter chooses not to approach me, then their grade or situation stays as is.