Schools do more than just be schools

Mr Kyle Thompson | Principal

Schools do so much more than teach the content of a curriculum. Of course, we do that too but it is often the other non-specific or non-classroom defined areas of learning that are so important to the healthy development of young people.

We hear constantly the term ‘resilience’ thrown around, or in the SCOTS vernacular, the term tenacity. We recognise these things as vitally important to the character development of our children although, at times, we find it difficult to allow the young people in our care to experience the stressors, the challenges and the disappointments they need to in order to develop these most valuable of personality traits.

The immune system is an excellent example of this – it requires exposure to particular types of germs and potential allergens in childhood to develop to its full capacity. Parents who treat their children as if they are fragile by not exposing them to dirt, possible allergens, and maintaining a sterile environment deprive their children’s immature immune systems from the opportunity to develop their maximum protective capacity.

Children’s social and emotional abilities can be viewed similarly. If we overprotect our kids from uncomfortable or unpleasant social situations or negative emotions, we deprive them of the opportunities for developing skills they need to thrive in society. This is not about saying we want our kids to be constantly challenged in this way, but they do need exposure to these experiences to grow socially and emotionally into adults equipped to deal with all that life will present them with.

The caveat here is that we also need to provide them with caring and reliable figures such as friends, parents, teachers or other significant people in their lives. It is about balancing the level of support and encouragement whilst not removing some disappointments, social diversity and uncomfortable situations. This balance is what produces happy, well-adjusted and socially capable people. And then, there is the associated benefits in terms of mental health and well-being.

Free play, working out their own rules, taking appropriate risks and mastering small ‘dangers’ are crucial in developing adult social and physical competence. Maybe this is why kids from rural centres seem to be more capable at overcoming adversity and succeeding in many different environments or vocations?

So how do we help our kids? Well most of us are probably doing that already. In some respects it is a reflection on how those of us older than, say, 40ish, were brought up. Exploring the neighbourhood, playing outside in the local park, settling our own disputes with mates (appropriately), and looking out for each other. It’s not rocket science but it can be harder than we think. I still remember the first time I travelled to school by myself, ran an errand to the shops, or explored the neighbourhood on my bike. I remember those feelings of growing up, feeling capable, and being able to be ‘courageous’ enough to take my next steps to adulthood.

At SCOTS, we have so many opportunities to experience all of these things and in doing so produce young men and women fully equipped to take on the world and the many challenges they will face whilst experiencing it. So, the continued challenge to us all, as educators and parents is to know when to and when not to.