It is no secret that students in the Middle East region often enjoy a very privileged lifestyle. This is not true for all students, but as educators, especially if we teach in one of the major cities, we can identify one or maybe a dozen students who seem to have life fairly easy.
How do we then begin to help these students and indeed all our students to become resilient learners?
“Resilience is being able to bounce back from setbacks and to keep going in the face of tough demands and difficult circumstances, including the enduring strength that builds from coping well with challenging or stressful events”. Process + Outcome + Individual Characteristics Cooper, Flint Taylor & Pearn (2013).
We have all had that student who gave up at the first sign of difficulty, complained to their parents that we are making the work too difficult for them to understand. Perhaps you have had the student who seemed to be extremely devastated after failing an exam, that it seemed like the world was coming to an end?
How do we help these students to pick themselves up and start again? Let me suggest before we proceed, that involving another adult especially a parent in the first instance is not the way to go. Below are four ways that educators can consider when trying to build resilience in students.
1. Help students to build strong self belief and confidence.
The more success we gain, the more confident we feel. Break classroom and even homework activities down into manageable steps. Reward students for success at every step. The more success they experience, the more willing they will become to try harder. If you want them to build a rocket, start with awarding them points from the brainstorming stage all the way to completion and launch. It makes it more difficult for them to just have someone else do the work on their behalf.
2. Clearly explain ‘next steps’ in case of failure.
We often fear the unknown as adults and so do our students. Give your students as much information as possible about what to do next. Let them know the possible things that can happen in case they fail. They are more likely to mope less and try one of the options given or even use the options as springboards to find their own solutions to the problems. Remember, if students are used to having someone else do everything for them, they may have difficulty following instructions, so be as explicit as possible.
3. Empower students to help each other.
Students often feel much better confiding in their peers when they are having difficulties. Develop systems in your classes that allow students to talk to each other before the matter is raised to the teacher. This helps you as well, to deal with only the problems that are really too hard for them to solve. Assign them a peer expert, buddy, or mentor. Make sure there is always someone for your students to go to and it does not have to always be you.
4. Ensure that students know the goals and purpose of all classroom tasks and activities.
When students know why they are doing something, they will be better able to react appropriately in the face of hardship or even failure. In explaining the objectives to the students, also let them know when and where they might meet this topic again. Knowing you have a second chance to learn something takes some of the pressure off and also makes them more likely to stick it out. Let them know that failure is not final.