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How Resilience Can Impact a Child as a Learner 

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    When looking at the definition of resilience (Oxford English Dictionary, 2018) it speaks about bouncing back from challenges and overcoming difficulties, defining “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”. Interestingly the same source also makes the comparison of resilience with elastic due to it’s extreme flexibility and mould-ability. When a child is of primary school age, starting out on their educational life, they too need to be malleable and have a degree of flexibility. A child’s resilience can be gained or impacted by many factors including personal, social, economic or psychological reasons. (Ref?) As a result, resilience can in turn, either aide or hinder a child with regards to their learning and ability to learn; which is where schools are in a prime position to help instil this in the children and create strong and supported learners. Primary school is the foundation for a child’s learning so therefore it could be viewed as the foundation of their journey to developing strong resilience.

    If a child is able to overcome obstacles within their learning, they are more likely to take this to adulthood and apply it within their adult lives (Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti, 2014). Public Health England (2014) published a report noting that “Resilience interacts with, but is not ‘created’ by, characteristics of individuals. Rather, it is shaped and built by experiences, opportunities and relationships”. It is thought that if a child is embraced in a nurturing environment created by their care givers they are more likely to succeed; therefore, as children spend the majority of their childhood in schooling, therefore the teacher becomes one of their biggest role models and care givers (Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti, 2014). Research suggests that when a child feels secure, they are better able to build durable self-esteem and develop their communication skills as well as seeking support, and asking for help – which in turn allows them to feel more mentally healthy and reinforced. (Stewart and sun, 2004). If the continuous provision and environment of a classroom is directed towards the child being supported and cognitively stimulated, they are more likely to engage and achieve academically (Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti, 2014).

    There are many factors that can potentially impact a child that will have a knock-on effect on their level of resilience. On the one hand, some researchers believe that a child who has experienced trauma, neglect, abuse or poverty etc. will have been forced through their situation into creating tools for themselves to be able to self-regulate, whilst using their negative situations to help them gain strength, push themselves to achieve and to become more self-sufficient (Cassidy et al, 2015) Alternatively, many believe that a child who has witnessed one or more of these negative impactors will lack resilience as they have not come from a warm and loving environment, meaning that they are unlikely to have been provided with the ‘correct’ tools to manufacture that resilience (Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti, 2014). Rose, Gilbert and Richards (2016) state that if a child doesn’t come from a safe or nurturing environment it directly affects the brain and how it processes other life events; if a child has been affected psychologically there is a possibility that their personal mental health could be impacted negatively, meaning that they may find it difficult to engage at school or even attend school in the first place.

    When looking at a child’s brain, it has been proven that in a resilient brain the frontal lobe is better connected to the rest of the brain, which in turn allows the brain to overcome challenges quicker, this is something that is developed in a young brain and progresses into adulthood (Rose, Gilbert and Richards, 2016). A child who has mental health problems is more likely to be disengaged with peers or teachers, they may also appear socially distant and therefore in turn will not want to participate in education fully. As opposed to a Resilient child, Taylor and Thomas (date??) argue that they are more able to learn as well as being more likely to remain settled in class. An emotionally unhealthy child may also lack self-esteem and therefore not push themselves for fear of failing (Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti, 2014). Grotberg (2007) believes that children who are brought up in poor or unsafe conditions have a higher percentage chance of failure. Rose, Gilbert and Richards (2016) believe that a child will continue on in the “cycle” mirroring their parents and will inevitably go onto unemployment, poor education or low grades. On the other hand, when looking at a child who has been involved in experiences that may have deprived them in some way; it is argued that this could equip the child with greater resilience due their own personal circumstance, requiring them to act independently and build up a strong armour which allows them not to give up and to keep trying until they succeed. (Martin, 2012)

    On the one hand it could be argued that looking at the importance of resilience in the school setting is a new concept and only intensely researched relatively recently as mental health has become more of a widely recognised subject. (Ban et al., 2015)

    Focusing more attention on ‘resilience and Mental health in children’ is something that is being highlighted in schools as this is something, they are now acutely aware of; often stating they have noticed an increase. However, many argue that this is something that has been embedded in education for generations as there is a clear association between children’s experiences and personality and how they are able to deal with tasks asked of them or situations. (Rose, Gilbert and Richards, 2016). Grotberg (2007) backs this up by stating that the idea of resilience and its impactors has been known for centuries, however it is only recently researchers are being to be able to completely explain it as she felt there was a lack of knowledge when it came to how resilience this was affecting a child.

    A child in an Early year’s classroom may show resilience in a more natural and raw way, as it is believed a child has not yet developed the skill to disguise emotions and are more obvious with their feelings (ref??). An Early Years child who has experienced trauma could ultimately gain a lot out of schooling and achieve academic success due to being in a consistent routine, caring setting and having trustworthy role models; however, these children may find it challenging to access this due to their negative outlook, lack of trust and complete anxiety. (Wright and Ryan, 2014) It is crucial to give a child in EYFS the skills to self soothe as this is something that allows the child to become more self-regulating and make their own choices from a young age. In the Early years, a child may find the preliminary transition daunting as they may not have been away from their main caregivers beforehand, the teacher becomes the bridge between the mother at home and the school teacher and can help the child find their own access points to be able to grow and maintain a healthier attitude in the classroom. The continuous provision and environment of an EYFS classroom allows the children to begin to make strong social connections, (Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti, 2014) learning through activity and play, trial and error and to be able to use their vivid imagination, this allows them to take control and form their own learning path. (Pawlina and Stanford, 2011)

    When thinking about Resilience in a Special Educational needs context it is argued that the specific disability the child presents can limit their ability to make alterations when it comes to gaining and growing resilience; this can be impacted by poor understanding and cognitive ability (Morrison and Cosden, 1997). On the other hand it is reasoned that a child with SEN, who has to overcome diversity, obstacles and challenges in everyday life may already be equipped; and is more likely to “not give up” when they can’t succeed, in some cases even more so than the “neurotypical” child (Pawlina and Stanford, 2011). It has also been discussed that although these children may not be able to achieve this independently, (depending on the diagnosis of SEN) they will be able to, with specialist support and strategies put in place. (Seale, Nind and Simmons, 2013) Children with SEN may feel more flexible to make their own choices, as well as repetitive problem solving due to lack of inhibitions of failing.

    Educational THEORIST —–Looking at Vygotsky and how he backs up this idea. Zones of proximal development.

    When looking at “Building Learning Power – The 4 R’s” (Claxton, 2005) they believe that the education of a child and their learning can be broken up into four categories “resilience, reciprocity, resourcefulness and reflection” and suggests they are all intertwined. They believe that if a child’s learning encompasses all aspects, they are able to learn effectively and develop to succeed. (Rose, Gilbert and Richards, 2016). Claxton (2005) further believes that if they have all 4 areas in place, the child would be able to concentrate on their learning and be able to somewhat extinguish external impactors in their life to be able to succeed academically. In the article it further argues that if a child has “resilience” they are able to overcome challenges and continue to try until they thrive, combined with “reciprocity” which indicates the people who have assisted them and the creation of professional and nurturing relationship which motivate and provide guidance; Alongside this “resourcefulness” and “reflection” play a strong role as it allows the child to create coping mechanisms and strategies and be able to reflect upon their work as well as what knowledge they gained. (Rose, Gilbert and Richards, 2016) A child who develops this is more likely to be able to endure challenges and stress circumstances in their further academic career and lives, which in due course influences their mental health. (Claxton, 2005).

    On the contrary, when looking at the idea of “growth and fixed mindsets” (Dweck, 2006) it talks about two varied mindsets that show the optimal place for a child with regards to their learning and resilient state or a growth mindset, as opposed to actions and emotions children reveal that will halter their learning, or a Fixed mindset. It is believed that children will attain higher grades and enjoy their education if they are supported to maintain a “growth mindset” (Yeager and Dweck, 2012). When referring to a fixed mindset it talks about a rigidity of personality, the learner shies away from challenges, they don’t want to try anything out of their comfort zone as they fear they may not succeed; if they were to fail, they worry they will be branded less intelligent because of it. A fixed learner may also see their peers as rivalry and feel the need to compare and compete, these children will also be known to show a lack of commitment to their work and show despair when struggling or choose easier areas that they know they can already manage. (Clarke, 2014) Opposing this is “Growth mindset” which describes a more flexible personality, for example a child who has a growth mind set will become more creative, embrace criticism and use it positively and become resilient when things are difficult (Dweck, 2006); they will also persevere with effort until they have reached their goal and can learn from their own mistakes, they are able to work alongside peers which allows them to learn from each other and gain new skills and techniques rather than seeing them as competition – which in turn creates a competent learner with increasing self- esteem. Dweck believes that this pedagogy can help mould a child’s mindset and personality, which is reinforced by Clarke (2014) showing that students’ mindsets can be changed and that doing so can promote resilience.

    From another perspective, Grotberg (2007) believes a child’s resilience and learning can be easily segmented into three areas “I have, I can, I am”. Similarly to Claxton, Grotberg argues that if all areas of this theory are made available to children, they will assist each other to creating a resilient and mentally healthy child. She believes that all areas of resilience are covered under these areas and will aid teachers to gain a better understanding of each child and what they are presenting. When looking at “I have” Grotberg (2007) describes what the child “has”, such as having a sustainable and devoted setting, the people they look up to, role models who demonstrate mistake making and problem solving. She also explains that it is the people who offer support as well as set appropriate targets. People who allow the children to become independent through subtle guidance. The second part “I am” talks about the child as an individual and what they are able to accomplish for themselves, looking at their personality and positivity, a “practise makes perfect” attitude, a desire to succeed with a confidence in ability to reach this and responsible, respectful traits which allow bonds and relationships to form. Finally, Grotberg explains that “I can” looks at children being able to self-regulate, ask for support and help, along with being able to solve problems and remain in control. Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti (2014) support this theory as they trust that if a child does not hold these behaviours previously they can be harboured at a school who is equipped with the knowledge to assist correctly to achieve maximum potential; however unlike Grotberg who believes the idea of resilience can be segregated into three categories, Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti (2014) believe that you clearly section Child resilience and how it can be fostered into 7 areas: ((where are the 7 areas??) I would list them here first so it is very clear. Then do the discussion about it as you have below….and you don’t need to name the main 3 so much as you have said it is their 7 areas you are going to talk about…

    Firstly Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti think about the idea of giving the children responsibility and feeling like they belong in the classroom. This can make the child feel secure in their surroundings and in turn because they “belong” they have the desire and drive to achieve because they feel like they play a part in the whole operation. This can simply be created by the teacher by making sure that the child visual sees and feels that they “own a part” of the classroom, by making sure the children have their name on a peg, a drawer that will belong to them and a specific seat in the classroom that they can call their own. By also displaying items of work that the children may have completed can also achieve this as well as boosting the self esteem and confidence of that child. (Andrea Nolan, Ann Taket & Karen Stagnitti, 2014) This is backed up by Grotberg’s model where she talks about how a child should feel loved and cherished alongside having a respect and accountability for those around them and the environment; which in turn allows them take ownership of their own learning (Grotberg, 2007). If a child comes from a background or home that has been influenced by trauma, abuse, neglect or poverty, they may not have previously been allowed to make the decisions for themselves or be responsible (Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti, 2014). It is crucial that these children are provided with the interventions to allow them to build their self-efficiency whilst also improving their self-esteem. (Miller and Daniel, 2007). It is also crucial to give the child skills to be able to take control their own actions and accept that it is their choice to do those things (Pawlina and Stanford, 2011). A resilient learner may feel prepared to make their own decisions in their learning, compared to a child who may not be resilient and will be cautious about making choices due to fear of failure (Nolan, Taket and Stagnitti, 2014).

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