We understand implicitly that deep, sustained learning is only possible when a child believes they are in a safe, nurturing space where their wellbeing needs are met. Children who are fearful, upset, anxious and worried have their cognitive brain capacity consumed by such concerns. They do not have space to focus in class to new learning demands or the ability to cope with minor setbacks. Everything appears 'too hard' and unachievable.
We need to focus our teaching and parenting on how to support our girls in building skills of resilience, positive self-talk and the ability to self-regulate their emotions. Of particular concern is the recent emerging trend of an increase in anxiety across primary schools in Australia. School psychologists are reporting that more than 70% of their time is being occupied by students presenting with anxiety. Such limiting behaviours can be generated through real time as well as online engagement and thus I commend to parents the summary of Dr Kristy Goodwin's presentation shared in the article above.
We are committed to 'taking this anxiety bull by the horns' by being proactive in helping our girls build skills of resilience and the ability to engage in positive self-talk and adopt known strategies to combat this negative trend.
To support the girls in building resilient behaviours, we continue to deliver the well-researched and successful You Can Do It! Program from Early Learning to Year 6. The program has been recently revised and we are now also delivering the program for high school students to our Senior School girls as well. In assembly last week I charged Infants girls with being vigilant and reporting to me peer behaviours that modelled the wellbeing keys of:
• getting along
In Primary Assembly, I focused on our School Values of:
• Integrity – we do what's right, not what's easy
• Respect – We value everyone for who they are
• Courage – We dare to take risks
• Compassion – We lift each other up
• Perseverance – We get up, we don't give up
We have created bookmarks to be presented in assembly to highlight the behaviours we are seeking to 'call out' and reinforce.
As a resource to parents, we commend to you the work of Prof Carol Dweck, who researches, speaks and presents extensively on the topic of 'growth mindsets'. In relation to intelligence verses effort she comments:
'Emphasising effort gives a child a variable that they can control. They come to see themselves as in control of their success, emphasising natural intelligence takes it out of the child's control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to failure.'
She goes on to state:
'When you praise kids' intelligence and then they fail, they think they're not smart anymore, and they lose interest in their work. In contrast, kids praised for effort show no impairment and often are energised in the face of difficulty.'
I commend this article to you titled, The Secret to Raising Smart Kids, where her research on this topic is accessibly presented. Additionally, I share here the 2017 research from the Alliance of Girls' Schools on the importance of parenting that builds independence, self-efficacy and resilience. This article speaks loudly to the limiting paradigm created by 'helicopter parenting' in particular.
I conclude by sharing a quote of grounded advice from Ellyn Satter who writes, 'Your job as a parent is not to make your child's way smooth, but rather to help her develop her inner resources so she can cope.'
And I would add 'thrive'.