The ability to respond and adapt efficiently when under pressure is a skill that can make a huge difference to the future of secondary school students. Whether it’s having the strength to say no to a situation they are not comfortable with, the confidence to talk in front of a large group, or the aptitude to come through a difficult day smiling – mental toughness is key.
It was a skill which I was forced to learn at a young age when, aged just eight, I discovered that I was losing my sight. My initial reaction was a complete loss of heart and I felt my future dreams had been shattered but taking up running gave me a whole new identity. I quickly progressed from the back of the pack to the one leading from the front and that changed my entire attitude towards myself and my disability. I stopped pigeon-holing myself as the only blind kid at school and, drawing on my own courage and resiliency, made the positive decision to focus on my future career as an athlete.
I may now be a professional athlete but there are still plenty of occasions when I have to be psychologically strong, from forcing myself to get up and out to training at 5:30am on a cold, wet, winters day, to competing in front of 80,000 people at an athletics competition. The students I work with on behalf of the Youth Sport Trust each have their own challenges to face and I feel it is vitally important to ensure they are equipped to cope with school and life in an increasingly fast moving world.
When we begin to appreciate just how much the past was shaped by people’s values and understand the extent to which positive and negative values are affecting the present, we realise more and more how, with well considered, carefully chosen values, we are empowered to create the kind of future we would like to experience and leave as a legacy for generations to come.
Whatever subject we look into, whether it’s History, Geography, Art, Music, Literature, Languages, Sciences, Physical Education, Religious Education or ICT, we can soon find instances that illustrate the effects of positive values, such as honesty, compassion and respect, and the results of applying negative values such as intolerance, irresponsibility and deceit.
PSHE is an interesting subject area in the UK. Much government policy and school rhetoric depict its importance, yet the status of PSHE as a subject is complex (PSHE Association, 2010). To over simplify a little, it is statutory to teach PSHE, but there is not a statutory curriculum which sets out what should be taught... to my mind this was the perfect opportunity to try something new.
My students did not need instruction in how to practice teaching; what I decided would be valuable to them is an invitation to explore their thinking, to examine the area of PSHE and, upon examination, explore what a curriculum could look like. For the last few years I have been following the work of Ewan McIntosh and his colleagues on ‘Design Thinking’ in eduction, and the structure this gives for creation seemed an ideal vehicle for this exploration.
Photo credit: Standford d.school
The London 2012 Games were a morale booster as influences from the powerful, universal Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect spread and brought out so much goodness in so many people – from all walks of life and from all age groups.
The performances of all those involved in the London 2012 festival of sport – Olympians themselves, the organisers, all those who designed the superb and imaginative venues, those who took part in the impressive and enjoyable ceremonies, the Games Makers and even spectators - set many hearts and minds alight by their examples. They demonstrated just what can be achieved when talents and abilities – not only sporting - are nurtured and allowed to blossom to their full extent. They made abundantly clear what can happen when we have a purpose, live by and share what we treasure and value.
The Olympics brought into sharp focus just what can be achieved when individuals are set alight so that they can blossom and realise their full potential - and the sense of wellbeing when the spirit of service flourishes.
So what qualities shone as the Olympic torch travelled the length and breadth of the country? What characteristics were identified during the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony? Which elements of the Games themselves demonstrated what can be accomplished when people are fired up?
Considering that any person who serves as an example and whose behaviour is emulated by others is a role model, the big ask is: What kind of attitudes are young people learning from us? Which skills are they developing from us? What knowledge are they gaining from us?
With a new academic year just over the horizon, the summer holidays could be a particularly good time for personal reflection and development, and consideration about how we can consciously motivate young people to make the most of their rich education opportunities and inspire them to become the best they can be, realise their full potential and live their dreams - while remaining true to themselves.
It is a natural sentiment for parents to want the best for their children and many who have entered the teaching profession have done so because of their love of children.
What do we mean by character building and why is there ever greater emphasis on it as a necessary part of a child’s development and education?
The London 2012 Olympic Games provide an ideal incentive for each of us to shine and enjoy the rewards from raising our personal development bar and supporting one another and children as we go for gold in all that we do and in every aspect of our lives.
How can we achieve this heightened state?
Let’s start by considering what we VALUE, what we treasure, because this is where much of our energy is absorbed. It may be that we value:
How would inhabitants of Kepler-22b rate Planet Earth beings?
If inhabitants of the newly discovered Kepler-22b planet were to quietly visit Earth’s atmosphere and observe the activity on Planet Earth, how would they rate the way we live and how we are looking after our planet? Would they be surprised to see widespread, unsustainable modes of operation that appear to be posing a very serious threat to the very existence of our blue planet?
It is possible that one observation would be that many Earth beings don’t seem to be enjoying the realisation of their full potential due to operating and bringing up their young in a debilitating climate of moral uncertainty. In the minds of our galactic cousins, they might wonder why this matter is not being more urgently addressed, not least for the sake of the health and well-being of Planet Earth and all other forms of life on it.