Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

The New 3R’s of Education

October 16, 2016

The New 3R’s of Education.

As the world shifts and changes and becomes both more amazing and more disturbing we need a new focus in schools, a big focus on becoming decent people; citizens of an ever-changing world, able to survive, manage and even thrive in whatever is to come. So today’s schools must focus more explicitly on Respect, Responsibility and Resilience. Once upon a time this used to be the covert curriculum, and much of this rested in the hands of parents. But now it needs to be front and centre in schools too.


Respect covers a range of sins and must be paramount as we become a more uncertain world with borders shifting and changing, identity and gender being more fluid and more open, with religious and cultural differences more defined as we become a global community. It is as simple as respect for yourself and for others. But it is so much harder in practice.

There was a time where we embraced the ‘live and let live’ ethos of a more tolerant and accepting view of each other. But now we seem to feel free to abuse, vilify and attack on the slenderest of reasons. Indeed Social Media and the constant streaming of ‘news’ has to take some share of the blame for the rise in hate in society, but it can’t be that simple, can it?

Why do we feel free to berate and abuse others? Where did that ‘freedom’ come from?


Schools must be vigilant about respect, and in truth, many are trying to address the constancy of social issues that ever creep into our crowded curriculums. Respect is about tolerance, patience, consideration and kindness. It is being aware that others have different beliefs, customs, ways of living, attitudes and ideas. This is important as we don’t really want an homogenous society where we all think the same and parrot platitudes and dangerous ideas that are never challenged. Oh, yes, too much agreement and similarity is a very dangerous thing.

Thus instilling respect as a central tenant of how to live a decent life is crucial. 1.Respect for yourself, so you keep your body safe, so you can express your ideas freely but thoughtfully without hate and vitriol.

2.Respect for others, so they can get on with their own ways of life, be it of a different colour, different religion, different sexuality, different beliefs and ways of doing things.

3.Respect means understanding that there is no right way to do things, that there are many voices, many ideas, many people and we all have the right to exist peacefully in this world.


Responsibility is perhaps the thing in schools and society that does my head in most. For fuck’s sake, get a pen, learn how to cook, stop buying sugar-laden shit and expecting to be healthy, vote in elections, accept when you make a mistake and stop blaming everything and everyone else for your shitty life.

Being responsible for yourself, for your life can start early. Simple things like making your bed, putting your clothes in the wash, doing your homework, packing your school bag for the day ahead. Parents do need to build in these little pathways to responsibility early and naturally. It doesn’t mean you make them self-sufficient by 11 but by the time they get to secondary school most kiddies should be able to do a great many things for themselves.

Responsibility means being responsible for what you say and how you behave – under pressure and under normal circumstances – organizing your own life; owning it and making things happen.

Not being responsible is to expect all sorts of other people to make things happen for you and blaming them when things don’t fall the right way for you. So teaching responsibility early is vital for a human being who is self sustaining, accepts that sometimes things are their fault and doesn’t spend their life blaming, in no particular order – their parents, their teachers, the government, politicians, God, ISIS, Pauline Hanson, Trump, Clinton, etc, etc – for all that is wrong with their lives.


Loving parents and good schools (even when the system is against them – whose GCSE results are they??? Just ask a failing school…) ensure that young people take responsibility for what is theirs and do the right thing in owning both the good and the bad that they say and do. Responsible youngsters become responsible citizens who take on more than just managing their own lives, who take responsibility for making the world a better place.


Resilience became a fashionable term a few years ago and there were various programs designed to help make students better able to cope with their worlds when things went wrong. For my mind responsibility and resilience go hand in hand. A responsible person can accept their own short comings and face up to them and do something about them. They are able to work through the tough times and stay afloat.

A person who blames others, a child who is so cosseted by their parents (and yes, schools too) that they cannot cope with slights, or failures is going to have a very tough life. All this helicopter-parenting, this Tiger-mothering of the young does them no good in the harsh light of the real world.

Resilience is perhaps more important than ever in this world of cyber-bullying, trolling and stalking. Young people are more vulnerable than ever to the slings and arrows of others, piercing their young feather-light hides with barbs and poison that stings to the core. Teenagers are horrendously sensitive creatures, their self esteem balancing on a pin head. Of course they are vulnerable and in the glow of their screens, in the dark of their rooms they are more vulnerable than ever. Recent studies deplore the levels of self-harm and unhappiness that young people feel, not to mention the constant stress of exams and that old faithful, peer pressure.


If there was more respect for others, more tolerance of difference, of the outsider; if we took responsibility for our words and actions from the youngest age, there would be little need for resilience training for the young. But we must be aware that not all of us have the capacity to deal with the tough times, that not all of us have people who care enough to hold our hands and keep us steady through failure, rejection, self doubt, illness, bullying and harassment.

Resilience doesn’t make you callous, it doesn’t stop you feeling, it allows you to deal with the darker side of life and we need to prepare students in dealing with those things, the things that de-stabilise young people – lack of friends; ill, dead or absent parents, abusive families, drugs, bullying, failing to get the grades we expect, or into the uni course we so desperately want.


As a parent and a teacher I can bring these three elements to my teaching, to my dealings with young people. Honesty, integrity and authentic relationships with young people matter enormously. They need people they can trust – parents, teachers, coaches, other adults; people who will listen to them, be there for them, tell them the truth, and offer support in a practical and useful way.

Surely at the end of every day what we want is a better world, full of people who care about each other and themselves and are bringing good to the planet. God knows it needs it! (Images from Private Collection)


The Job Hunt – Shot down, get up, try again

February 1, 2013

You win, you lose: you try, you fail. This is life. Today I am a little bruised from my latest sortie into the world of professional advancement. I do this every once in a while when I get so fed up with where I am I know I have to leave or explode. But, given my considerable financial obligations there is a profound need not to end up destitute with dog and child and partner so, I cannot just walk out of the job. Thus, I need some place to go – preferably some place nicer, kinder, smarter: more rewarding, less dispiriting.

fighting roos

And so to the scouring of the TES, the Guardian, other websites; the completion of job application forms. All of which for some mysterious reason are different from the last, making copy and paste impossible and taking an age to complete. Then there’s the personal statement and while you can recycle that, you do need to make is somewhat bespoke. You do need to sound as if you are addressing this particular position in this particular organisation. You need to sound genuine and you need to sound like you.


Then off it goes, your careful, considered application taking with it your hopes and dreams and fantasies of a better work-life. Too often there is no reply. And not often enough there is the yes, come for the interview response.  This, my friends, as you know, can be a bit of a two edged sword. You’re really excited and pleased with yourself for getting the nod, a much needed bit of affirmation and a big shot of hope. But to get too excited at this stage is to court disappointment, even devastation when the interview does not translate into the job.

be prepared

So you must proceed cautiously. Prepare assiduously. Get your ducks in a row, as an old friend would say. Prepare your bits, your lesson, your presentation. Read up on the organisation, the school: the Ofsted. Actually – read the Ofsted report BEFORE you apply. You may not like what you read, so don’t waste time applying. Remember it’s oh so easy to make a school look sexy on a website – lovely shots of new facilities, shiny smiley kiddies, a lovely banner and motto and some cheesy grinning shot of the current head. Do not be sucked in, consider where you’re going and if it really suits who you are and your career aspirations. To leave a place in desperation can lead you to foolish choices, so take care.

richard brason chance & prepare

If you never try you never win and sometimes when you try you lose. But we have to be careful about what loss means. I’ve spent hours this week preparing for my interview, time that should have gone to my study, to work (and to the child’s creative writing story). I didn’t get the job and it looks as if I’ve wasted all that time, all my spare hours this week.


But I feel stronger about myself. On paper I look the business so that’s something. It was enough to get me to interview. Preparation for these things is never wasted if you look to the next time and learn from this. And so I am. I am considering where things didn’t pan out and, as I am determined to find a better workplace, I will ensure that the next time I have covered my bases better.

win-lose advice

In the end, perseverance is the one thing that will win you the battle, the boy, or the job. Sometimes your face doesn’t fit; sometimes you stuff it up. But reflect, know yourself, take advice, try harder. You’ll get there. (Images courtesy Google Images)

Finding Balance – the Eternal Quest

July 15, 2012

(This article first appeared in Hope for Women September/October 2006)

When I sat down to write this piece about Balance I was initially focussing on the on-going struggle between work and family life. I was looking at the normal things about work obligations, family commitments; the amount of time in the car running around after children and the lack of peace and stillness in my life. But as I stepped away from the computer and considered my life I realised that my quest for Balance is better considered as the struggle between what I have to do and what I want to do.

This realisation came to me as I considered the conversations I’ve been having recently with my 15 year old daughter, who struggles with her life. It isn’t what she wants it to be but she’s optimistic that when she’s older all of these tiresome, boring calls on her time will evaporate and she will be able to do what she wants, when she wants. Part of me wants to leave her with her delusions but as a responsible parent I want her to take charge of her life, have a grip on reality and realise that the world is not as portrayed on so many TV shows. My darling girl just wants to be left alone to do her own thing – whatever that is.

I sympathise with her. I too am caught between what I want to do and what I have to do. What I have to do is concerned with earning an income, looking after my family, getting on with people and running my household. And we all know of the myriad wonderful things we have to do in order for our lives to run smoothly. What I want to do is different and varies depending on a range of matters. But simply, it’s doing things that nourish my spirit. For my husband it’s being in his garden (yes, it’s more his than mine) or fishing. For my little girl it’s playing her saxophone and drawing. For my troubled teenager it’s looking after her rabbits and taking photos. For my beloved son, now miles away at university, it’s exploring his new world and challenging his considerable intellect in a variety of novel pursuits.

Interestingly, and somewhat ironically given how I consider work at times, the realisation that I needed to nourish my spirit came through work. Until recently I had spent my teaching career in the government sector. Now I work in a Catholic College, where God is central to what we do. I find comfort in this. It helps me to see teaching as more than just a job, more than glorified baby-sitting. Here we are about nourishing and developing the whole person: academic, cultural, sporting, pastoral and spiritual.

A focus on the spiritual has shifted my emphasis in the classroom. I am more intent on students doing their best, giving everything they’ve got to a task, regardless of their ability level. I’m no longer interested in just having a go, some sort of second-rate attempt at life. I want them to be the best they can. I want them to read Shakespeare and understand why he is great. I want them to make connections with aspects of their world they would normally avoid. Yes, poetry can be magical and I’m often amazed by which kids in my classes connect with the imagery or ideas in Frost or Blake or Donne. I feel my obligation to show them what’s possible in the world, what they can do. I’ve shifted my emphasis from achievement, from the pursuit of the almighty “A” to enjoyment, to finding something that resonates with the students. Something they will take with them the rest of their life. Yes, I have embraced this idea of educating the whole person: it makes perfect sense to me.

So, now in my own life I am conscious of my own spiritual needs, to have the right balance in my day-to-day existence. I am aware of the importance of having time to myself. That I am allowed to sit and write in a space all of my own, that my family can cope without me for a few hours. It’s all right to read, to sew, go for a walk, have lunch with a girlfriend. It’s okay – I’m not being selfish or a bad mother because I don’t want to devote all my time to them, or keeping the house clean.

But I still want to spend time with my family. I loved going to the movies with my son. I miss that very much. I remember when my little girl was a baby and how happy I was being at home all day, just with her, while the others were at school. She always made me smile, made me serenely happy. She brought joy to my life and that joy remains. The best moments of life occur at the dinner table. Last Spring we had a power outage. Dinner was over, the youngest had gone for a bath and the rest of us sat and talked. We made up a new game: How much do you know about… each member of the family. What is my son’s favourite band? What does my daughter like most about school? What’s my favourite colour? What does Dad like to do best? It was one of those unexpected magical evenings with the people you love most.

And of course this is the bind for some of us. You wanted to have a family, but you wanted a career too, or in my case a creative life, that doesn’t quite work with family and financial obligations.  My personal struggle for years centred on the frustration of having willingly created a certain lifestyle with expectations and obligations that did not allow for a creative life. I was resentful and angry. I felt my life slipping away. My needs and desires sacrificed on the altar of family and financial imperatives. My life was unbalanced and I couldn’t see a way through the woods of obligation. Now I understand that it was my spirit that was depleted. That I had lost my connection with God and didn’t appreciate that looking after my own needs was essential to being a whole person, to connecting with the world in an honest and decent way.

I have made choices about my life and I know that much of what I have to do is because of things I wanted. But now I can allow myself to do the things I want to do as a matter of course in my life. In fact I am a better person for doing the things that I want as well as the things I have to do. Through nourishing my spirit I am calmer, less angry and better able to have the life I want and much nicer to be around. I have found Balance.

I am about to have this conversation with my daughter. I want her to understand this sooner than I did so she can have the life she yearns for and be a person at peace with herself. (Images from private collection)

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