[Assembly Notes: RCML]
You have now gone through seven days of the new school year.
For some of you, this is a new school; for most of you this also means new subjects, new teachers, new material, a higher level of understanding and commitment, a change of style.
For those of you starting at RGS it also means new friends, new routines, new expectations. It’s a lot to take in in a short period of time and this can be difficult to manage.
These are all new challenges that you will have to face. Your response to these challenges will be determined by many factors, not least your ability to cope with these situations.
And that is not easy.
History is littered with examples of people who have faced challenges and overcome them as well as those who have not.
This summer, Alastair Cook, the England cricket captain, faced some major challenges. He overcame those and led his team to a remarkable test series victory against India.
In 2012 Malala Yousafzai faced a massive challenge after she was shot by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school. She overcame that and is now campaigning for education rights for girls around the globe alongside studying for her GCSEs in Birmingham.
And 100 years ago today Ernest Shackleton was on his way to the Antarctic to make one of history’s most famous responses to a challenge as he led his men (and they were only men) to safety over thousands of miles of ice and stormy seas after their ship was crushed.
Hopefully none of you will have to cope with what Malala went through or the privations faced by Shackleton or the opprobrium that was poured onto Cook.
But you will have to face challenges in your daily life, we all do.
How we manage them is something we can learn. We can get better at that and doing so makes us more resilient and robust in our approach to life both at school and in general.
So, thinking about that word, ROBUST, I’d like to offer you a mnemonic that, I hope, will help you to manage the challenges you will face today and in the future.
Recognise the challenge as just that. It’s not a brick wall or immovable obstacle that you have no hope of breaching. It’s a challenge and it’s conquerable. If, after his ship got trapped, Shackleton had just thought, “this is too much, we’re doomed”, then we would not have seen the great man that he undoubtedly was. So, it’s a challenge, but it’s surmountable.
Don’t run away from it, seeking an easier but inferior outcome. Sometimes it is necessary to take a seemingly more difficult path to achieve the best outcome.
Own the challenge. It’s yours to conquer not somebody else’s. Don’t let your teachers solve the problem for you. Don’t let your parents face the challenge in your stead.
I’m reminded of the wonderful Scandinavian analogy of the “curling parents”. You know, the winter sport that involves sliding blocks of British granite down an ice rink. Bowls on ice, if you like.
A key feature of this sport are the sweepers. Two people who, with brooms, clear a smooth path for the rock to glide towards its target, unimpeded. These are curling parents, clearing the ice for their children to glide effortlessly down the path of life.
But doing this means that young people don’t learn how to overcome a challenge and they crack at the first sight of a difficulty, expecting someone to solve the problem for them. Life doesn’t work like that, so it’s a lesson best learned early.
Own the problem. It’s yours to face and yours to solve.
Break the problem down into manageable bits. The whole thing may look daunting and impossible, but broken down it becomes easier to cope with. A seemingly impossible climbing route up that new wall in the sports hall actually breaks down into sections. Some are more difficult than others. The easier bits can be dealt with leaving a smaller, more manageable challenge.
Use your past experiences to tackle the problem. Have you faced this problem before? In which case you can use the way you coped before, now. If you let someone else solve the problem then you’ve nothing in your bank to draw upon. We learn from past experience so use it.
Even if you haven’t faced this particular problem before then maybe you have come up against something similar. Maybe you can adapt past experience to cope with something new?
Again, no experience means nothing to draw on.
Seek support from those around you, if you need it. It may be a new problem that you haven’t coped with before. Can someone else help you understand how to manage it? Have they had experience you can learn from.
Don’t expect them to do it for you, though. Ask advice and implement your own action.
Tackle the problem. You’ve analysed it, sought advice, developed a strategy, so do it.
And that makes you more ROBUST. Recognise it, own it, break it down, use past experience, seek support and tackle it.
Good luck, you’ll be better for it.
[download poster: RCML Poster 1]