Why we teach mental resilience & emotional wellbeing

A special visit to The Suthers School in Newark!

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By Elisha Hamilton

Earlier this month I visited the amazing Suthers School – yes, a real-life face-to-face visit! I sat in on a couple of Healthy Minds Foundation Skills lessons with groups of year 7 students. I left feeling warm-hearted and full of admiration, and so here I am to share it with you all!

The Suthers School, a non-selective secondary school serving the communities of Newark and surrounding areas. They have been a Healthy Minds school for a little over a year now. From the moment I arrived, I noticed the student-teacher relationships, how they communicate, and saw how the students interact with each other. It was instantly clear how much emphasis the school put in building character strengths as well as academics. It is a school built around teaching young people how to thrive right now in education, but are absolutely preparing them for life beyond school. And that’s the purpose of education, right?

I joined two separate Healthy Minds lessons, with two groups of year 7 students. All students showing their unique individual strengths throughout. The thing that really shone through across both classes was the respect they all had for each other’s thoughts and opinions. Ms. Petit, Head of Personal Development, was teaching the skill of ABC and the link between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. The class focused on different “As” (activating events) scenarios and as a group discussed what the Bs (beliefs) and Cs (consequence) might be. Students were eager to be involved, happy to contribute to the discussion, and were listened to by their peers.

The Personal Development classroom had key messages on the wall, encouraging students to ask themselves about their words, thoughts and actions –

      • What are the quality of my thoughts? Watch your thoughts, thoughts become words.

      • How do I speak to others? Watch your words, words become actions.

      • How do I behave? Watch your actions. Actions become behaviours.

    During the lessons, the students separated into smaller groups and brainstormed a question before rotating to the next. The below shows some of the wonderful suggestions made by the groups;

    How important is failure?

        • Very, because after failure you will learn to work better

        • Failure is important because if we don’t make mistakes then we don’t learn

        • Failure gives us more opportunities to learn (resilience at its finest right there?!)

      How can we have compassion for self and others?

          • Being supportive

          • Be kind

          • Be happy for yourself when you do something good

          • Positive and encouraging comments to your friends

        How do we make the most of our opportunities?

            • We say yes even if we’re scared

            • Every second counts

          Is self-awareness knowing what is “normal” for me?

              • I think self-awareness is knowing what to do when I am feeling a certain emotion

              • It is knowing and understanding what and how I am feeling in the moment

            These 11 and 12 year old’s, after 18 months of being in the midst of a global pandemic, being away from their friends and experiencing a far from “normal” transition from primary to secondary school, only on their second resilience lesson of the year – it was in this moment I could see the true impact of teaching resilience. It shows me the difference the culture at The Suthers School is making. They are teaching their students how to be the best version of themselves, in and out of the classroom – not just in Healthy Minds lessons!

            At Bounce Forward, our approach is all about good quality teaching and learning – taught in schools by professionally trained and skilled teachers. We want teachers to be professional to the same standard as Math’s or English teachers, but in our case to teach emotional resilience – and this is exactly where The Suthers School are getting it right!

            In my day to day to work, I often sit back and think “wow, I wish I was taught this stuff when I was at school”!

            If you are reading this and thinking the same, if you are thinking about the difference it would have made to you in your life now, and the difference it can make for the generation of tomorrow, please get in touch with us to see how you can support a school near you. And if you are a teacher, get in touch with us to discuss Teach Mental Resilience and Healthy Minds for your school.

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