Preparing Students for Life
One of the most important functions of schooling is to equip individuals for adult life. A young person’s choices about what to do with their time after school may begin to be formed from a very early age. The choices and resources available to young people can vary based on geographic location, cultural influences, social and economic resources, education level attained and additional experience, just to name a few.
Around 51% of young people identify their teachers as having an influence on their post school planning1. With this privilege and responsibility in mind, it’s important for teachers to have the resources and confidence to have meaningful conversations with young people about their ideas and hopes for the future.
Young people continue to be among the most disadvantaged in the labour market. Youth unemployment (ages 15-24) continues to remain around double that of the general population2 and in some parts of the country it is even higher. Protracted unemployment can impact or lead to a variety of social problems including low self-esteem, reduced social connections, economic hardship and housing problems which all add further barriers to an individual’s future prospects of employment. Supporting students to make smooth transitions through school and on to further education or employment benefits not only them as individuals but has positive implications for the broader community.
The workforce our young people are preparing for is in a state of transition as new jobs emerge and traditional jobs disappear due to rapid changes in technology. In order to thrive in the workplace of the future our young people need a broad set of skills to be able to adapt and take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. A clear understanding of their personal strengths, interests and values and a willingness to engage in ongoing learning will be important assets as they move forward.
There is some debate about the best age to commence careers education in schools. Many Australian schools deliver core careers education in Years 9 or 10 with a focus on future career and education pathways. However, providing careers education in primary school can provide students with a broader view of career options available to them at a time when their career aspirations are forming3. Either way, helping students to engage with career aspirations and future planning is an important function of an education that equips young people for adult life.
To help schools provide students with useful and relevant careers education, Stride has developed the STEPs program which provides useful tools, resources, tips and guides. Designed for primary, secondary or post-secondary students, the STEPs program can provide a useful way for educators to connect with students and promote thinking that will remain meaningful to the young person throughout their life. For more information about the STEPs program please visit www.whitelion.asn.au/school-programs.
The Benefits of Mentoring
A key protective factor enabling young people to make a successful transition into adulthood has been identified as a relationship with a caring adult outside the young person’s immediate family. In a study on resilience, Emily Werner and a team of professionals followed the development of children born in 1955 on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, from pre-birth through to adulthood. Werner subsequently contributed to five books written about this work over the years and has identified key protective factors that contributed to individuals’ successful transition into adulthood as being caring teachers, elder mentors and other caring adults outside the family.
Within the school context, mentoring can provide students with an important layer of scaffolding support. Schools can intentionally link students with ‘mentors’- teachers, support staff or volunteers - for the primary purpose of the student having a positive relationship with a caring adult. The support of a caring ‘significant other’ can prevent a young person from becoming vulnerable and/or at risk. Further to this, mentors can add incredible value to a school through their individual time with students and their collective impact on the school community.
To facilitate the development of an enduring and constructive relationship, mentors and students need to meet regularly on an individual basis to engage in activities and build rapport. This relationship connection can increase the young person’s sense of wellbeing and increase their connection to school and community. With time being a limited resource for school staff, many schools utilise local volunteers for mentoring programs and this also provides a link between the school and the wider community.
Volunteer opportunities within schools can be a win-win situation for everyone involved. The school and students benefits from extra assistance at minimal cost and volunteers benefit from a sense of achievement and community connection. However, due to the overriding need for child safety, all volunteer programs require careful management. In terms of mentoring, the need for volunteers to be appropriately screened, trained and managed is vital and this challenge can be a barrier for schools wanting to offer mentoring through volunteers for their students.
While the necessary time commitment from staff to operate volunteer programs in schools can be prohibitive, the benefits of involving local volunteers as mentors for students cannot be underestimated. Many adults can look back on their childhood or adolescent years and recall an adult (or maybe more) outside of their family who went out of their way to provide them with guidance, support and care. This support can shape a young person, help them to see opportunities in life and believe in their potential. This positive influence can help guide a young person to a more positive pathway than they otherwise may have taken and the positive influence of that relationship can stay with them for the rest of their lives.
To enable schools to manage their own mentoring program at minimal cost, Stride provides training to school staff and a complete set of mentoring resources, forms and guidelines for smooth operation of a mentoring program within a local school.
Further information about Stride In-School Mentoring, can be found here. Please let us know if you would like any further information or to book a program for your students.
 Werner & Smith, 2001, Journeys from Childhood to Midlife.
Introducing Shut the Duck Up!
In 2016 Stride has adopted a new program to help young people challenge and reframe their internal voice. The following article explains why this is necessary, what students can gain from positive self-talk and some strategies to use with young people in their journey towards success.
The power of self-talk
Every day we interpret what is happening around us, to us and within us. Our inner voice plays a huge part in how we understand our experiences and this inner voice is often described as ‘self-talk’. Our self-talk is often guided by our assumptions and beliefs and can enable us to overcome enormous obstacles. It can also hold us back and limit what we think we are capable of. What we say to ourselves about people, situations, achievements, disappointments and ultimately about ourselves determines how we see the world and what we think of our ability to interact with it.
For young people just starting out in their experience of life, what they say to themselves can have a huge impact on their pathway towards adulthood. How a young person behaves socially, emotionally and academically can be enormously impacted by the messages they tell themselves. A young person’s self-talk can be motivating, enabling and positive but it also can be demoralising, limiting and negative.
The difficulty is that self-talk is unseen. Unless the messages young people tell themselves are expressed and challenged, the impact of self-talk may go unnoticed or be misunderstood. During such a sensitive time of social and emotional learning, teenagers are prone to distortions in their perceptions about people and situations. Challenging negative and unhelpful aspects of self-talk can help young people to reframe their thinking and approach situations in a more helpful way. It can help them to interact more confidently with others and enable them to achieve better outcomes at school.
Strategies to enable positive self-talk
Recognising this issue, Gavin Freeman, a performance Psychologist, developed a program to challenge negative self-talk and enable positive thinking in school aged children and teenagers. Gavin has vast experience as a sports Psychologist and a business coach and applied this understanding to working with young people. Gavin has now partnered with Stride who offer his program to schools across Australia.
Shut the Duck Up is a program that aims to help young people to identify and challenge negative self-talk using the analogy of a quacking duck. The program encourages students to imagine their negative thoughts to be like a duck quacking and challenges students to Shut the Duck Up, reframe thinking and use more helpful strategies in approaching social, emotional and academic situations.
Some of the key elements of Shut the Duck Up can be used to help any person to identify, challenge, reframe and redirect self-talk to be more helpful. These are:
- Identifying pressure situations (day to day stressors), associated thoughts and behavioural responses.
What situation gets me really upset or worked up? What do I say to myself in this situation? How do I behave in this situation?
- Identifying and challenging negative thoughts and behaviours.
Is what I’m thinking really true or going to happen? Is this behavior actually helping?
- Developing strategies to prevent and cope with negative thoughts.
Are there more positive ways to behave in response to this situation?
- Applying positive strategies to deal with pressure situations.
What’s going to work for me? Putting it into practice.
- Setting a commitment to do things differently.
Writing down your plan or telling someone you trust what you are going to do differently.
Further information about Shut the Duck Up can be found here. Please let us know if you would like any further information or to book a program for your students.