Building Resilience

Written by: Mrs Carri Campbell, Year 9 Level Coordinator

One of the main goals of Year 9 Camp is for students to be challenged in a supportive environment. To be faced with many ‘outside their norm’ experiences to have a go at, sometimes fail, and have another go, and try again. Many, many students HATE the idea of going away to a long-stay camp (and many parents too), however, after camp, students come away with whole new perspectives of themselves as independent young people.  They have pushed themselves, supported each other in their Rite Journey teams and come through stronger. And, the response from so many students is that they wish they could stay longer or go back for future camps. And the main character we find that is starting to be developed at Year 9 Camp is resilience.

Parental instincts drive us to protect our students. All too often we try to shield them from any adversity they are likely to face, we try to bubble wrap them and protect them from the world around us. But we can’t and shouldn’t. We can, however, prepare them to navigate the world. We can support them to develop the character, values, strengths and human connections that allow them to thrive in good times and rebound (and grow) in challenging times. In other words, we can build their resilience.

Resilience is about developing internal strength rather than relying on an external shield (bubble wrap). Think of resilience as a process of bouncing back — of rising above adversity, developing from that lessons that enable you to better handle the next bump in the road.

Resilience is not just about bouncing back though, the very same characteristics that allow someone to rebound from adversity will position them to get the most out of life. We want our students to become their best selves, to experience healthy relationships, to make their unique contributions to our communities — to succeed. Part of this process is holding them to ‘high expectations’.

Holding students to high expectations does not mean demanding high grades, scores, or trophies, though we certainly can expect effort. The roots of high expectations stem from knowing our students character. You know best those strengths they have shown from a young age. Honesty, commitment to fairness, sense of humour, integrity, service to others, strength and perseverance. These traits you have noticed from the time your student was small develop further during adolescence. When you celebrate their strengths they will have a highly protective grounding. If they stray, hold them accountable and they will return to their better selves.

Resilience DOES NOT mean invulnerability. Everyone has limits. And we don’t want to build invulnerable students. Why? Because we want our youth to be passionate and compassionate. We want them to experience joy. To be committed to lifting others up and building a better world. To do so, they must have emotions — even though feelings set them up to experience pain. Our goal is not to suppress or deny emotions. Rather it’s to help them learn to benefit from emotions, while knowing which ones may undermine their well-being. With that said, we must fully protect our students from “toxic” stressors, those challenges that can be threatening to developing brains and bodies, such as drugs, abuse, neglect, and violence.