A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule “braying” or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbours together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery. Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbours continued shoveling and the dirt hit the mule’s back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. ‘Shake it off and step up… shake it off and step up … shake it off and step up!’ he repeated to himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought “panic” and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up! You’re right! It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him. All because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.
However, what is important is the fostering and developing of skills such as resilience within our students so that they feel empowered and have strategies to cope during difficult times rather than attempting to avoid or escape the pitfalls of life. As parents and teachers, we play a pivotal role in the building of positive self-esteem within our young people. A positive ongoing self-esteem enables students to take risks and so meet life’s challenges with enthusiasm, confidence and optimism. Self-esteem is closely linked with feeling valued. Our young people realise they are valued when their efforts and contributions are welcomed, encouraged and appreciated. Both family and school hold the key to valuing, guiding and supporting our students in their quest to set realistic goals, practice good work habits, rise above disappointments and celebrate achievements and in so doing are encouraged in the discovery of their strengths and acceptance and improvement of their weaknesses. As role models, parents and teachers have the responsibility to provide regular opportunities to share, listen and be of assistance regarding the difficulties, hopes and aspirations of our young people. As educators we are acutely aware of the link between positive self-esteem and academic and social success.
Moreover, just like the donkey demonstrated, it is certainly very rewarding when one can step out triumphantly, confident in the knowledge that despite the outcome they have given of their best and have been supported by people who love, care and value them.
Head of Secondary School/Deputy Headmaster