Menu

NAPLAN // Peter Bromhead

Intro:

Gabby's a parent of school aged children with lots of questions about education, and Brendan's an educator with 30 years experience in with jargon free answers. This is 'Shaping Futures'.

Gabby:

Good morning Brendan, and welcome again to Shaping Futures.

Brendan:

Gab, good to see you.

Gabby:

Good to see you too. Brendan, I've been hearing a lot about resilience.

Brendan:

Yeah.

Gabby:

Resilience in schools, in the school environment. Tell me a little bit about your experience or your opinion on developing resilience in young people.

Brendan:

The whole emphasis or the place that resilience holds in schools has gone through quite a change. Resilience has been something that schools have talked about as being an outcome of their programmes for decades, really. It started with this notion of helping kids with self-esteem issues, and being able to manage crisis, and being able to keep their mental health and internal well-being balanced and moving forward. So, there was lots of programmes that focused on being able to bounce back from, and understanding how to cope when things were disappointing or they'd gone through challenge and hardship, how they come out at the other side of those sorts of issues. Which is fantastic in itself and really important for schools to be focusing on. It was a pastoral care stream, where schools were focused on the whole care of the young people that were there.

Brendan:

In the last five years or so, it's taken on a very different level of significance because there's some research that was done by a lady called Angela Duckworth. She's become pretty well-known from that, and if anyone is of interest, she's got a fantastic TedTalk that you can look up on Ted.com. Angela started out as a school teacher in some disadvantaged areas and she was intrigued by what was making the difference, why some students in those depressed economic social factor areas were able to go on and make a success and others didn't. She started to look at the kids and realised that it wasn't the brightest, it wasn't those that came from the best backgrounds, or those that had been given opportunity at school. There was another factor that was determining their academic success, their educational success, and it was this thing called resilience.

Brendan:

It's morphed into this concept of grit. You'll hear the modern language around it is this grittiness, this ability to stick at something. It's found, as the research has gone through, that it's drawing together a whole range of research that has had some historic significance. But it's coming under, now, this single banner of grit that talks about or that it gives an indication of how students can persevere in their work.

Gabby:

Perseverance through things is strength of character.

Brendan:

Yeah, it is a character trait.

Gabby:

And encouraging that among students.

Brendan:

Yeah, but it's now come more to be ... It used to be this strength of character, being able to cope with disappointment. It's now thought to be an attribute that is necessary for any success. It's not just being able to cope with tragedy or crises, it's even those little things in life, those little setbacks that students need to be able to persevere through, hang on, show grit, don't give up, and a whole range of life successes are being influenced by it.

Gabby:

How do we teach students this? How do we show students this? Is this shown by example?

Brendan:

Yeah.

Gabby:

Is this taught?

Brendan:

Yeah, great question. Well, again, that's been another part of the shift because, originally, I think it was thought to be you either had it or you didn't. You had a character trait that you were resilient, you were tough, you could stick it, or you weren't. Alongside all this research that's shown the importance of resilience is another stream of research that's all about neuroplasticity and malleability of the brain, and a growth mindset. The findings for that is that even those things that we once thought were static and fixed, actually can be changed. So, the merging of these things gives great hope that ... More than great hope, it's opportunity for everyone of the students to be able to learn to improve in their grittiness.

Brendan:

It is through modelling. It's about being in an environment where it's talked about. It's explicit instruction. That's a notion where rather than make assumptions or rather than hope that kids pick things up by osmosis or simply by observing it in action, you talk about it, you unpack it with them. This is what it means. So, schools that are at the leading edge of adapting educational research will have programmes where these particular trays, hanging in their growth mindset, optimism, courage to face risk, are explicitly talked about. Programmes where, "This is what it's going to look like when you have a problem with your friend, this is what you do. When you face something in your maths class that you find hard, this is what it looks like, this is the strategy that you do, this is the attitude that you bring." And programmes that help parents come along for that ride, so that the language is also being used by the community home.

Gabby:

It's really interesting Brendan, and the more that we talk about it, the more we go into it, it opens up so much more conversation. It's also choice, isn't it ..

Brendan:

Exactly, right.

Gabby:

... as well, to choose, "What choice am I going to make?"

Brendan:

Exactly.

Gabby:

"What am I going to do with what's presented before me, when life comes and throws these things at us?" Talking about true grit, I wanted to share with you, I met with Australia's strongest man.

Brendan:

Okay.

Gabby:

Eddie Williams.

Brendan:

That would've been some meeting I imagine, Gab.

Gabby:

It was amazing. He really has quite a strong testimony, I guess, a testimony of strength, grit, character. Starting off being a Rugby League star and his ambitions that were his hopes and dreams crushed in that, to then becoming Australia and possibly looking now at a world title of being the World's Strongest Man.

Brendan:

Wow.

Gabby:

So, something that kids can look to and aspire to.

Brendan:

Yeah, exactly.

Gabby:

But obviously soft inside, and has a real heart for kids with special needs.

Brendan:

Yeah. That's fantastic, Gab, because as Christians who come to this notion, it can be an easy thing for us to get caught up with the psychology and the data-driven information, and this ability for us to recognise personal qualities that, just like Eddie, can face hardship and move forward. But from Christians, we've got an understanding that it's not just bouncing back from difficult circumstances but bouncing back to reliance on our Heavenly Father and on his promise, and upon his destiny, the purposes that he has for us all. It's great to hear that somebody like Eddie's been able to find both of those, bounce back from hardship, bounce back to an understanding of what God's doing in his life.

Gabby:

Yes, Brendan. Eddie's story is just a fantastic story of grit, resilience, and strength of character.

Brendan:

I understand you met with Eddie a little earlier and we're going to hear a little of that exchange in our next segment.

Gabby:

Yes, it's a fantastic, fantastic story. It's worth listening to.

Brendan:

I look forward to it.

Gabby:

Thank you.

Brendan:

Thanks, Gabby.

Gabby:

Thank you for talking to me on Shaping Futures.

Gabby:

Eddie tell me a little bit about your upbringing, and what brought you over here to Australia?

Eddie:

So, I'm originally from New Zealand, and I had a dream to play in the NRL, like any other young kid growing up in New Zealand or Australia, wanting to be at the top of any sport is a dream.

Gabby:

So, what happened to that dream?

Eddie:

I moved over and I played two years over here in Australia for a feeder cup team, Newcastle Knights, and I injured my knee.

Gabby:

Oh, so that dream was shattered there?

Eddie:

Yeah.

Gabby:

What happened after that, Eddie? What did you go through once you found out that you couldn't play for the NRL?

Eddie:

I turned my back to rugby because I was hurt from I couldn't play anymore, and I went through a time of depression. I felt like I was stuck there for like a while and it was-

Gabby:

How did you get out of that place, Eddie? What propelled you out of that season of your life?

Eddie:

I played music back home in New Zealand. But I never knew that I could do well in the music scene because I didn't know you could get paid to go play at a restaurant, so that was kind of like an uplifting thing, "Oh, I can turn to music now. That'll kind of cheer me up a bit." I think I was just over being down, and I knew that, that wasn't me. I'm a confident and I'm a positive person. I guess that's why I'm so positive now is because I've been to the pits, like, what I've been through has made me a stronger person. Then, that's why when I look at lifting weights, it's nothing compared to what I've been through. There's a scripture in the Bible and it says, “God's word never returns void,” and I know that when I'm having rough days, I can turn to his promises and it just kind of winds me up again.

Gabby:

That's great Eddie. That's very inspirational. It's your strength also in your character, Eddie, that also got you through, and that's very inspirational for us to hear and for kids to hear. It really is a story of resilience. How did you know that you were so strong? Did you practise lifting things? You were just lifting more than anyone else? How did you come to know you had this strength?

Eddie:

My first competition, actually, I'll tell you about that, it was actually straight after church. I wanted to go to the competition but then I was also singing in the team. There was a conflict because I was like, "I really want to compete," because I've kind of been training up for this competition, and I wanted to do right by God. I asked my worship leader, I was like, “Do you mind if I leave a bit early straight after singing?” And he said, “Ah, that's fine.” Straight after walking off the stage, I walk out, walked to the back and the competition had started. I paid my $20 for my entrance fee and my T-shirt. Yeah, I ended up winning that competition and I've kind of never looked back.

Gabby:

That's great, Eddie. Eddie, what's ahead for you as far as your Strongman competitions go? Is that something you want to pursue overseas? Tell me what's ahead. What are your aspirations for the future?

Eddie:

I've got a few. I'm a few competitions away from World's Strongest Man, and it's going to be hard. I do all my Strongman out of, after work. Work comes first, and me and my family know that, and as long as I'm doing my job then I can do Strongman.

Gabby:

I believe that you're going to come up against The Mountain over there when you go over to the U.S.

Eddie:

Yeah, so he's ... He won-

Gabby:

Who is he?

Eddie:

He won World's Strongest Man this year. The next few competitions will be a test for me to kind of ... It'll be the difference. So, if I can win the next few competitions then I think just being there will be a miracle because I've only been doing it for coming up to three years now, and that's-

Gabby:

Is that all, only three years?

Eddie:

I've only been doing it for three years.

Gabby:

Wow, that's ...

Eddie:

A miracle.

Gabby:

Absolutely.

Eddie:

That's what I say.

Gabby:

I'm a little bit fascinated, I must admit, growing up idolising Arnold Schwarzenegger. You met him. Did you meet him?

Eddie:

Yeah, I met him.

Gabby:

What was that like?

Eddie:

It was an unreal experience because I was fan-girling for my dad, my gran, my granddad. It was actually quite emotional because, growing up, that's all they used to watch, you know, army movies, Rambo, you know, like any ... To meet any of their heroes, is like, "Wow, my dad's proud of me." It was like I knew my dad would be like, "Wow that's cool."

Gabby:

Was that the competition where you were pulling a, I think ...

Eddie:

A tank.

Gabby:

A tank. So, it's not on wheels, it's actually on runners.

Eddie:

Yeah, yeah.

Gabby:

That is incredible. And you won that competition?

Eddie:

I won that competition, yeah.

Gabby:

Eddie, that's amazing. Is that going to be what's ahead in this next competition coming up? That's the sort of things you'll have to lift. Tell me a little bit but what's involved in that competition.

Eddie:

Yeah, so the competitions overseas will be a ... It'll be a mixture of a yoke, which is like a frame, which will probably be like 500 kilos plus, easy. You got to walk it for 20 metres and you got a minute to do it. So whoever gets the, walks it the furthest, wins the event. That's one event.

Gabby:

That's just one event?

Eddie:

Yeah, and there's a log press. It's a metal log and it weighs about 170/180 kilos and you've got to lift it over your head.

Gabby:

Goodness me.

Eddie:

Then there's a dead lift. So, you just got to pick it off the ground, and it's the heaviest deadlift wins. Then there either a truck pull or a pulling event of some sort, and there'll probably be a medley where you have to pick something up and take it 20 metres. Then you got to pick up something else that's heavy, like a keg, like 100-kilo keg. You got to run it to the other side, and then you come pick up like a 200-kilo log. That'll be another event. If you do well in all the events then, and if you come first, so you just want to try and stay near the top for events like that.

Gabby:

Eddie, we wish you all the best for that event. I know you're going to do so well, just looking at you.

Eddie:

Thank you.

Gabby:

Thank you so much for talking to us at Shaping Futures. Thank you.

Eddie:

Thank you very much.