Last Friday, I addressed the school following a busy week and referred to the process where failing and making mistakes is absolutely part of our learning success. Assessing failure or fault and owning mistakes can lead to the most incredible achievement and it is vital that we find ways to support children in accepting this, but also to be accepting of each other. It is never easy to have agency of ourselves where others may view us with disappointment, but taking responsibility, considering how to make amends and ultimately changing an approach is hugely powerful and provides a foundation for much of our lives within the context of school.
It is not only within the classroom setting or during the longer homework hours that this occurs, but perhaps more commonly these mistakes can also happen within peer relationships. This once again, is part of the growing phase and we have to work out how to adapt to one another; flexing as we need to suit the situation or finding ourselves wanting where we do not respond as expected, or anticipated.
The social media scene has created a haven for those mistakes to become more than an instant lost to time. Subsequently, there are huge numbers of children on a daily basis, whose mistakes are glorified in perpetuity as that foolish or thoughtless moment, gets caught on camera, or shared online without thought. And so, while we work hard to define resilience as something which is created from learning to fail, the internet and its trappings can have a more lasting impact upon those trying to move forward.
The environment that this creates is: difficult to navigate, can be toxic and can have lasting ramifications if an action has not been avoided by way of good sense. Mistakes therefore must be owned, apologised for and reparation set to find a way back.
As adults supporting the young in this difficult and often unfamiliar online territory, it must be our jobs to recognise that we will deal with more issues and that children do learn, but not always from others’ mistakes. We are unlikely to understand the need to live our lives virtually, but we have to be there for our young people if they do, and sometimes get it wrong. The stakes are higher in their world, faster and certainly have a more reaching impact and so our tolerance and our resilience, is required.
Bill Gates once said that “the internet is becoming the town square of the global village of tomorrow.” Town squares were of course a key feature in planning; designed to enable communities to maximise the ability to communicate, to share, to sell and to gossip. Life is streamed exactly as he forecast, creating a hub for conversation. But, unlike a town square where words blow into the breeze to be lost but for the memory; online conversations can be frozen in time, manipulated and used to hurt. Mistakes therefore, quite literally, last longer.
As educators, we have a new resilience to find and foster in students and our frequent social media users must be taught a full awareness of the situations they may find themselves facing. At Westonbirt, we take this responsibility seriously and work hard with students and their families to navigate our new town squares with compassion and common sense.