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20 June

Language of resilient schools & families

Submitted by:
Michael Grose

“Man up, girls!”


This is one of the terms used by teachers in an Australian girls’ school to encourage girls to step up when things get tough. As the school head readily admits, it’s not quite politically correct gender-wise, but this doesn’t deter teachers, nor her, from using it.

The term has an impact because the narrative of persistence and striving that it represents is understood by teachers, students and parents.

Resilient schools develop their own words and phrases to help students get through the inevitable tough times that they experiences. The language of resilience is generally built around the following seven areas:

1. Coping
Resilient children use a variety of simple coping strategies such as humour, relaxation, normalisation and acceptance when they experience social or personal hardships.

Language of coping: “You’ve got to laugh!” “You will get through this!” “Some things you just can’t change!” “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”

2. Courage
Resilient children and young people take learning and social risks, and know that things won’t always go their way. Rejection and failure aren’t taken personally.

Language of courage: “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” “Take a smart risk.” “You got to develop the courage to be imperfect.”


3. Persistence
The ability to keep persevering in the face of difficulty is a characteristic of resilience that leads to success in the classroom, on the sports field or other fields of endeavour, in the schoolyard and beyond.

Language of persistence: “Have another go.” “Hang tough!” “Push through the hard stuff to get the rewards.”

4. Relationships
Resilient kids are able develop and maintain strong relationships with a number of peers over time. They are supportive of others ; they can handle common conflict situations and don’t take rejection personally.

Language of relationships: “Is that how a good friend acts?” “Who have you spoken to about this?” “It’s not all about you!”


5. Thinking
Children may not be able to control a situation, but they can control how they look at, and think about an event. Resilient kids look for the positive side in negative situations, and see negative events as temporary. Reframing, remaining flexible and using realistic language are common resilience traits.

Language of resilient thinking: “Look on the bright side.” “Let’s look at this another way?” “It’s not a disaster. It’s just unpleasant!” “Where does this fit on the disaster scale?”

6. Problem-solving
Resilient children and young people have feelings of personal competence that come from resolving their problems and challenges. This develops the expectation that they can overcome fresh challenges, just as they have in the past.

Language of problem-solving: “How can you work this out?” “What’s the first step?” “Let’s set some goals together.”

7. Learning
Resilient children and young people learn from negative situations, and importantly develop greater awareness of their own strengths. Self-knowledge is perhaps the best knowledge of all that we can impart to children.

Language or learning: “What have you learned for next time?” “”You’ve learned a lot about yourself.” “You’re more capable than you think.”

Start with the vocabulary you already use

Start building your schools proprietary language of resilience by mapping the vocabulary already in use. Identity the key terms and phrases to that will make up your school’s proprietary resilience language. Then spend time and energy sharing that language with teachers, children and parents

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