Supporting our girls for change
Updated: Feb 25, 2019
This month we had the opportunity to chat to Linda Stade, a renowned educator, writer and speaker and specialist in resilience in our young people.
WINDO: Linda, what do you believe are the key challenges facing our girls at present?
LS: I think the key challenges facing our girls at present are all intertwined. Many have limited self-belief and underdeveloped resilience. As a consequence, they suffer a low sense of well-being and in too many cases, poor mental health. These factors also prohibit them from reaching their full potential.
According to NAPLAN our girls are consistently outperforming boys in every area tested, including numeracy. However, there is a tendency for girls to underestimate their ability. As a consequence, they don't rise to the challenges and opportunities that they deserve. Those challenges would push them and further develop their skills.
Fear of failure and perfectionism are problems, particularly among our high-achieving girls. We have somehow communicated to them that mistakes are bad instead of mistakes are learning opportunities. This leads to a lack of bravery and grit. Those are qualities we need to be developing in girls so that they stay the course and achieve to their ability.
WINDO: And what difficulties do parents face?
LS: It's challenging being a parent in this digital world. Our kids' experience of childhood is vastly different to our own. The impact of social media and constant connectivity is profound. Even an argument with friends becomes so much more significant when insults can be traded online and exclusion is obvious via the photos on your friends' Snapchat accounts.
Add to technology, issues of body image, pornography and the constant insidious messages from advertising that kids are now exposed to. It is hard for a parent's voice of reason to prevail. However, it isn't impossible. Ultimately, kids respond to boundaries and a meaningful, continuous connection with adults. That hasn't changed.
Digital technology aside, we are parenting children in a culture of fear. The 24-hour news cycle and the media's doom mentality mean that we feel we need to protect our kids from the big, bad world rather than encouraging them to take risks and embrace challenges. It is hard for parents to rail against the judgment from others when they don't conform.
For me the priority concern is teaching children resilience in their learning and in their daily lives. It's a simple statement but it is a complex task.
WINDO: What does this mean for our educators?
LS: Educators are in a bind. They have to serve so many masters. They are expected to ensure kids perform well on testing, prepare them for university entrance and increasingly they are being asked to parent kids. The language and social-emotional skills children used to enter school with are increasingly lacking. It is hard for a teacher to address the richness that exists in the curriculum with all of these competing interests.
I think the challenge for teachers is to manage their own wellbeing and ensure that children are provided with a safe, nurturing learning environment that is challenging but supportive. It is the same core challenge we have always had, but we have to be able to block out the background noise.
WINDO: What do you believe are priority concerns right now?
LS: For me the priority concern is teaching children resilience in their learning and in their daily lives. It's a simple statement but it is a complex task.
We can start by ensuring every child has a responsible adult who listens to them and who can guide them through challenges. That will help more than anything else. We must empower kids by giving them the skills to weather the ups and downs of life. We also need to make sure they sleep. Sleep is so often overlooked yet it has a stunning impact on mental health and academic success. It's one of the few things we can change today and see the effects tomorrow.
WINDO: So, what do you believe are the next steps we need to look at to create solutions to this?
LS: Parents and schools need to collaborate to look for solutions to the new problems we face...academic and social. We need to value the skills and knowledge that each party brings to the table. Neither parents nor schools can affect serious change without the support of the other.
I don't believe our current school system adequately prepares children for our contemporary world. We need more critical and creative thinkers, problem-solvers and people capable of meaningful collaboration. We also have a multitude of mental-health issues evolving constantly.
Research shows that 20% of our students at any one time are quietly disengaged. They aren’t causing problems and they aren’t disruptive, but they don’t care. That means the system isn’t adequate. That is not a criticism of teachers or school administrators. Those people work hard and are overloaded with responsibility. They deserve our support. We have good teachers, committed administrators and children who are born predisposed to learning. It’s time to unleash all that potential.
Linda Stade will speak at the session, 'Supporting Our Next Generation for Change', at the 'When Sleeping Women Wake, Mountains Move' Community Leadership Conference at The J Noosa on Wednesday March 6, 2019.
Tickets on sale now via this link.
About this contributor
Linda Stade is an educator, writer and speaker best known for her work in the areas of resilience and adolescent friendships.
She has worked in diverse teaching and management roles in education for twenty-seven years. Currently, she is the Research Officer at Santa Maria College, Western Australia.
Linda offers a wealth of resources at www.lindastade.com