Having spent my life in schools, I have been variously referred to over the years as pupil, student, and teacher. As Head of School, I continue in this role as the “first” teacher in the school, but maybe it is more accurate to say the “first” student. I hope this is the case because I want to be learning every single day: something about knowledge, something about others, and something about myself.
Although we often refer to our elementary children as “students”, they really are more accurately described as “pupils” (i.e., those under the close supervision and tutelage of a teacher on account of their youth and need for both care and instruction). The word pupil is used less often these days and may be seen as old-fashioned or anachronistic. Still, I wonder if there is a subtle distinction to be made between being a pupil and being a student. I wonder if the type of learning that takes place when we are “pupils” will be important for determining the kind of “students” we may one day become.
During my years teaching, I have known many strong kids. They weren’t necessarily born that way, but over the years and with the right kind of formation they became strong. At elementary schools like ours with supportive communities and shared values, what are the key lessons that ensure that “pupils of potential” become “strong students”?
There are several lessons, but especially those that help them develop their mental strength. Such lessons are important, for as child development expert, Amy Morin, says, they require children “to pay attention to three things: the way they think, feel, and act.” In a supportive school environment like ours, with consistent parent partnership, such “strength training” is a team effort that takes practice, patience, and consistent reinforcement.
I really like what Amy Morin believes about what mentally strong kids do and I have witnessed the same qualities in strong kids over my career. Mentally strong kids learn to:
- Empower themselves
- Adapt to change
- Know when to say no
- Own their mistakes
- Celebrate other people’s successes
- Fail…and try again
- Persist toward achieving a goal
If the children we work with each day are cared for and taught well (directly and by example), then they will learn to think, feel and act in ways that make them strong!
If we want our pupils to eventually become students, then it is never too early to start exercising the “muscles” that lead to mental strength, resilience, accountability, and responsibility.
We must also all prioritize the lessons that lead to it – and show them how to get there!
Ric Anderson, Head of School