Growing up in the 1980s was not easy and there were certainly parallels to today. As Frankie Goes to Hollywood belted our ‘Two Tribes’, nuclear apocalypse seemed inevitable either at the hands of a unsteady or spooked politician or as a consequence of decrepit maintenance. When the Chernobyl reactor blew our future seemed inevitably dark and we all feared the consequences of acid rain and worse. Teenagers today sit on similar shifting sands with nuclear threats ever more concerning and with world changing pollution coming in the form of plastic oceans and global warming. Perhaps the severity of change helps to explain the change in mental health and the issues of technology remain a constant worry with scourge of parents battling selfies, Instagram and Fortnite: it is a tough time for young people to feel positive about their futures.
A recent event reminded me of the importance of persistence brought about by disappointment; unless we learn and value the pain of not succeeding then change is hard to accept.
Just before half term a group of teachers from the school went up to the TES awards in London to see if we would win the National Award for Wellbeing in Schools. The sinking feeling and the anger which came when a different school was announced as the winner was met by my own petulance: ‘I don’t know why we bothered…’
Time is a great healer and I remain very proud of the well-being support on offer at the school but it also made me realise – as adults are we prepared to do things which make us vulnerable, to do things which could lead to significant disappointment? We expect it of our children and, indeed, we keep telling them that, without a resilient mindset, they will struggle to take on the shifting sands and thrive in a world of change. However, if we are not prepared to try new things, to be bold and to take on challenges which reveal our own worries, vulnerabilities and ultimately show our children that we struggle when we fail, then how can we expect them to dust themselves off and ask for more?
I know that I am guilty of enjoying my comforts but I hope that the failure of the school to win the Well-being Award will simply spur all of us on to find even better solutions for the children in our care – they deserve it! So, as the weather improves this is a call to arms to all teachers and parents in the school: set yourself a challenge, tell your children what you are going to try and achieve and openly share with them the pain and angst along the way. It will help inspire them to take on their challenges knowing it is a shared experience and one we can all get through.