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by Julia Hanschell
Anyone who has watched the magnificent series, Game of Thrones, will be familiar with the words, “winter is coming”. Little did we know that these words were portentous to everyone on planet Earth, when first heard in 2011.
There have been so many times when I have sat with students to help them navigate the ‘winter’ they were currently experiencing. Literature students understood the allegoric meaning better than others, and with it, the philosophy which they could apply to their experience.
After the ‘normal’ we all took for granted in 2019, winter arrived overnight. Everything has been changed forever by the ‘winter storm’ of Covid in 2020, just as it came with 9/11 in 2001. The physical and psychological impact of ‘winter’ shakes us to our core because we are inherently more like the cricket, than the ant, ‘playing all summer long’, rather than ‘storing food’ for the dark, cold months ahead.
Whether globally, in business, as a family, in relationships or personally, the cycle of the seasons is constant: from the optimism of Spring, through the heady success of Summer, to the fading memories of Autumn and into the harshness and reflection of Winter.
All ‘winters’ naturally come, but they vary in intensity and type. For students ‘winter’ takes many forms as they cycle though their rites of passage in facing endings and new beginnings – transitioning to Secondary School, puberty and making sense of relationships, choosing life-directing CSEC subjects, sitting exams and deciding what’s their ‘after’.
Many students have to face the harbinger of ‘winter’ in a diagnosis of Dyslexia or AD(H)D. Knowing that something is ‘wrong’, finally they know what this is. The hidden knowledge of how hard the journey will be from that point onwards, instills fear into the soundest of minds and the most resilient hearts. For those who cannot afford or find the help they need, a life of ‘winters’ stretches endlessly before them.
The common denominator is that ‘winter’ is filled with confusion and anxiety and students need help to create optimism, direction and clarity out of whatever murky no-man’s-land they find themselves in.
My favourite tool to help students navigate their ‘winter’, is through a Vision Board.
This week, I read a mother’s plight on ‘Dyslexia Support’, a group I am a member of: “My almost 7-year-old son cried for an hour after I told him about the Dyslexia diagnosis.
What now?” My very pragmatic reply was actually aimed at building self-esteem. After all, that is the tool from which all others are fashioned.
“You talk to him about the GIFT of a Dyslexic brain. And the solutions you will focus on TOGETHER to help him read, organise and remember more easily. You only talk about positives.
Read to him about the achievements of great Dyslexic thinkers, blessed with Dyslexia. Have him create a Vision Board about what he does well, academically and as a person. Only strengths.
Draw a line from each one to a picture of a famous Dyslexic who had the same strength. Then draw another line to a prospective career or three! In fact, use a whole wall of his bedroom on this project.
He needs to see that this diagnosis is not a definition of his needs but his membership into a very special club of different thinkers who have achieved great things. Title the project: ‘The World NEEDS Dyslexic Brains’.
Research Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences with him and print out images for each one. Perhaps you can stick on each famous face an icon of the type of intelligences they have or had.
Let his display be dynamic and constantly growing as he discovers more and more about this different ability and those who have turned its possibilities into their passion.”
I believe all of us need Vision Boards, especially in ‘winter time’, and more relevantly, in this visual age in which our children live. It’s just too hard to design a future without reflective-driven imagery.
Many students do not research possible career directions, comfortably living in anxiety-fuelled oblivion. Have them create a personal Vision Board, starting with what they love and their personal strengths. Then expand from there.
A 6th Form student told me recently that he loves playing games but has no interest in designing them. I asked him if he would like to play significant, ‘real life’ games and suggested the cat-and-mouse of a Counter-Terrorism Analyst or an Information Security Analyst. He was fascinated, excited for the first time that he could take what he loves doing and make a career out of it.
I explained that he would have to start with attaining knowledge in subjects he needed in order to get to the point of fulfilling his passion. Accept the ‘fuel’ of need that is required to power the car of want. Understanding the journey, he embraced the price he would have to pay.
There is a lot to be said for the wisdom born in ‘winter’
and the Vision Boards that keep us all focused on preparing for ‘Spring’.
If there is one tangible way to help your children, this is it!
Julia Hanschell can be contacted on smartstudying