Resilience: A case study of the personal characteristics, skills and coping strategies of educationally successful adolescents

Year: 2009

Author: Fechner, Kellie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While presented with more opportunities than ever before, today’s young people are at greater risk of being left behind: disconnected, overwhelmed and depressed. As an educational community, we have followed the research trend over the last twenty years and moved away from the deficit model of risk towards a more positive focus on resilience. The next step in our collective journey is to take what we have learned about resilient, successful adolescents, those who thrive despite their circumstances, and apply it to the system at large, in order to ensure improved educational and life opportunities for all our students. Only then, can we help them reconnect with what matters most: their communities, their schools, their families and, above all, themselves.

In a school where socio-economic diversity and disadvantage predominate, one class of year nine students took up the challenge of unlocking the secrets to their success. Working with a class made up, not of the gifted and talented, but of the capable, their teacher uncovered the characteristics and skills that contributed to their resilience and, in doing so, opened the door into the mind and world of the adolescent. The students’ stories are eye-opening, honest and powerful, revealing a series of fascinating paradoxes regarding the ever-present threat of despair and its influence on teenage values, hopes and dreams, and proving that, all too often, we underestimate the strength, wisdom and life experience of the young people in our classrooms.