Last week I delivered my first in-person training session for more than 6 months. I’d nearly forgotten how much I like working with real people and feel more certain than ever that I don’t want to be hidden behind a screen forever. However, as the talk of further restrictions intensifies, the reality is that such experiences will remain infrequent, and possibly be short-lived!
However, as a self-confessed technophobe I’m also quite proud of my adaptation to becoming an online trainer.
And there are benefits of course… Last night I trained teachers from all over the East Midlands. Nobody had to travel, find a parking space or money for the meter… There were no concerns about ‘dress code’ or what people looked like. Nobody apologetically left early in anticipation of bad traffic or having to pick the kids up. It was long overdue time & space to talk, learn & think about arguably the most important subject on the planet.
As extreme an event as a global pandemic is to have put wellbeing; children’s and their grown-ups; firmly on the agenda, it has given me the opportunity to really & meaningfully talk about the role of ‘being well’ in ‘doing well’ in school.
Inevitably one of the big topics for all of us is helping children deal with change, but even the landscape of ‘transition’ is changing drastically.
Because what we usually do in the name of ‘transition’ is prepare kids for what to expect…. “Here is your new classroom. This is your new teacher. This is where you’ll have lunch…”
This secure sense of familiarity is, in fact, the business of ‘new neural pathways’ that I talk about a lot; The neurology of adapting to a new environment, of being ‘change-ready’.
So what changes are we preparing young people for right now? There is only one real certainty amongst the unanswered questions, the ever-moving goal-posts, the conflicting and ever-changing advice, and that is the uncertainty itself.
We cannot create brains that ‘know’ how to navigate a ‘new’ environment while it continues to morph into something else.
We can’t teach young people the behaviours that will enable them to adapt to what the world will be like in 3, or 6 or 12 months time.
We can’t give them the knowledge to ensure they are equipped for what they’ll need to deal with next week or month or year.
But we are not powerless. We can-and, I would argue, we must-cultivate the one fundamental competence that overrides all this uncertainty.
In its most basic form, what I am referring to is resilience; The belief that, although we don’t know what’s around the corner, it will be ok…. that we can cope with that uncertainty… Isn’t that the only way forward?
It sounds simple, doesn’t it, but how many of us, even as adults, truly feel this from the inside?
Yes, we desperately want to book holidays, to plan for Christmas, to anticipate what 2020 will bring.
We are powerless to know when the mask-wearing, the sanitising, the socially distanced queueing, the mentally unhealthy restrictions will lift.
And we can’t adapt to change ourselves, or help our children to, when we don’t know what those changes are.
But we can cultivate the skills to confidently step into uncertainty. Because what happens to the anxiety, the frustration, the anger; the sense of hopelessness & helplessness; when we-and our children- innately believe that, whatever happens; as and when that happens; we’ll deal with it?
This means creating whole the neural pathways; literally pathways of ‘least resistance’; in their brains that can only be built by non-stressful experiences of uncertainty. So how do we do that?
It’s not the norm in schools, or embraced by our rigid education system, but what children need to experience is novelty & excitation…. The curious sense of ‘what’s going on here?’ or ‘why are we doing this?’, the eager anticipation of ‘what’s going to happen next?’
When they experience change as fun & exciting; even when unexpected; it lays the neural pathways down in their brains that create the thought processes & beliefs that;
1) ‘change is-or can be-positive’
2) ‘I can independently navigate change because I am a capable, competent human being’.
Let’s give them problems to deal with… That’s how they’ll learn-with your support-that they can competently solve problems as they arise.
Give young people decisions to make. Then they’ll develop a sense of agency and autonomy.
None us are certain about where we are going, but we are certainly on our way ….