Students have always had to manage a wide range of potentially stressful situations - increasing amounts of school studies and homework as they progress through the educational system, exams and assignment deadlines with growing pressure on results and grades. All of which they have to balance with their sporting activities, hobbies and social life.
Then there are the inevitable conflicts with parents, siblings and friends, concerns about appearance, fitting in with a peer group, obsessions with social media, money worries, love interests and even sometimes fears of violence in and around schools. And all this as they experience the challenges of rapid physical and emotional changes.
Further, and compounding all this today is the seemingly constant background climate of anxiety resulting from various threatening national and global events which permeate the culture of society and increase stress levels generally. So how are our children coping?
Educational environments where children are not accepted for themselves but only for what they achieve are breeding grounds for unnecessary stress. When it comes to their social and emotional development, children are each other's teachers too and many life lessons are learnt well out of sight of parents, teachers and staff. They influence each other's thoughts, behaviours and levels of confidence just as much as the experiences they encounter during their formal education process.
These days, as Cheltenham Principal Eve Jardine-Young states, social media, delivered by iPads and especially Smart Phones, has become a major factor in teenage social relationships. It cuts across socio-economic, cultural, state and independent, day and boarding 'boundaries.'
It allows young people of different ages to socialise in virtual space and to a far larger extent and far wider scope than would be seen in just the school environment. So no wonder teachers are seeing new and different patterns of behaviour triggered by this online activity.
With all these potentially unsettling factors, more and more schools are introducing initiatives which are starting to place mental and emotional health and wellbeing on a more equal footing with academic achievement.
The binary choice, for students to be happy and fulfilled or to maximise their academic potential, is certainly not a mutually exclusive choice, indeed they go hand-in-hand.
Far from being a distraction which might jeopardise grades, interventions such as the Hero's Journey Workshop? can help students transition through the educational system and into working life.
This workshop was designed to help students generate and develop the confidence, self-belief, competencies, flexibility and resilience necessary to navigate life's stormy waters, initiate positive behaviour choices and make their own corrective changes when needed.
To make it highly engaging and fun, as well as challenging and thoughty-provoking, the What Now? Workshop is presented in the format and structure of The Hero’s Journey, first identified by Josepy Campbell in the early 20th Century. It is the story within all stories, including all of our own. Campbell's premise was that...
“…the experiences and illuminations of childhood and early youth become in later life the types, standards and patterns of all subsequent knowledge and experience. And so it is that in our childhood years the foundation is laid of our later views of ourselves and the world, and there, with its superficiality or depth, it will in later years unfold and be fulfilled, not essentially changed."