Posts Tagged ‘young people’

What’s Stopping You?

July 3, 2012 2 comments

What is your first response when you are faced with something new and unfamiliar?  If, like me, you work with young people what would their first response be?

This will certainly be influenced by your past experiences and, most importantly perhaps, your perceptions and beliefs about your own abilities.

It has become something of a cliché to assert that individuals learn more from failure than from success but that does not necessarily mean we should discard the sentiment.

Of course, in reality, what and how we learn from failure is far more complex than this bald statement can possibly convey.

In Engaging all young people in meaningful learning after 16: A review Naomi Haywood et al assert that “Some young people develop an ingrained sense of failure. This can be due to the emphasis schools place on academic achievement and measuring success by test results and levels of qualification[1]”.

This damning indictment of the way the testing system in our schools can create, and then continuously reinforce, self-limiting beliefs that actually condition our children and young people to switch off from learning is something that I have seen frequently in young people.

Perhaps though, it would be more accurate to state that it is the ingrained fear of failure which creates the most significant barrier to learning and makes it so hard for some young people to face new situations and challenges.  The fear of failure triggers ‘fight or flight’ responses in the body, the physiological effect of which is to divert blood flow from the brain and thus make it almost impossible to learn.

Of course this fear is not limited only to ‘academic’ learning.  It includes all learning, all new experiences and challenges that each of us faces almost every day of our lives.

There is a strong likelihood that you will be more comfortable when faced with a new challenge if you have previously had the chance to ‘fail’ in a safe and supportive environment. If you’ve never had that chance, everything new and unfamiliar can seem impossible and you are likely to ‘fly’ from it.

This has led me to think about how we can help young people to unlearn those self-limiting beliefs that are born from the fear of failure.  How can we create a place where young people can begin to ‘fail’ safely? How can we enable them to face new challenges secure in the knowledge that it’s not only ok but good to fail because everyone does (in my case frequently), and that the experience we gain from the attempt improves our chance of future success.

I haven’t got any answers.  I’m asking the question of myself, my colleagues and the young people we work with though so watch this space! Perhaps you’ve got some ideas you’d like to share too…


The trouble with teenagers

June 19, 2012 1 comment

For the past several months I have, due to a back injury, had to use a stick to get around and struggled to stand for any length of time.

I am also a frequent user of public transport.

These are not comfortable bedfellows!

This combination of circumstances has however, given me some insight into modern manners and caused me to examine my own past behaviours.


Now, I haven’t collected empirical data to prove the observations and assertions that I’m about to make but, I believe them to be pretty accurate nevertheless.

Who is most likely to offer their seat to me during rush hour?

Now if I’d thought about this eight or nine months ago I’d have said without a doubt that it would be my generation – I would have been very, very wrong.  I’m on the cusp of middle-age and am sorely disappointed by many of my peers’ lack of courtesy and decency.  It would appear on the face of it that blindness has become endemic amongst this demographic in this part of the world. But then again, “there’s none so blind as them as don’t want to see” as my grandmother frequently told me. Eyes that seem perfectly capable of reading the newspaper are rapidly averted when they alight on the stick in my hand and the pantomime of pretending not to see would be quite entertaining in different circumstances.

If it’s not my generation most willing to offer their seat then, who is? Well it is teenagers of course. You know, those noisy, disrespectful, antisocial creatures who are simply a constant pain in the neck. The lazy, feckless, rioting teenagers that the Daily Mail and other media would have us believe are destined to be a constant drain on our resources for the rest of their natural lives.

Oh and as an aside these aren’t just any teenagers, they’re south London teenagers and they frequently smile when offering their seat. Sadly, they also sometimes look shocked when I thank them for their kindness.

I mentioned earlier that my current circumstances and these observations have led me to re-examine my own past actions too. I am more than a little ashamed to realise that, on occasions at least, I have not offered my seat with good grace to someone more in need of it than me.

What goes around comes around as they say.

I am on the mend now and hopefully will no longer ‘need’ a seat as I do at present. When I have recovered I vow to look up at each stop and if there’s someone more in need of a seat I will offer it with a smile and a thought for all the young people who offered me a seat and by doing so taught me a valuable lesson.