The Winning Mindset – Why Every Parent & Teacher Must Read This Approach! – Ross McWilliam

17 Jun 2013

There is a perennial argument that continually draws attention…which is better, a great attitude or great skills. According to Forbes 2013 January edition, it would seem that most employers (90%) would prefer a great attitude, as skills can be subsequently trained! Attitude is something that is ingrained early in life, but can be progressed and “polished” as young people mature.

A large part of this fragmented attitude development comes down to non awareness of the ever changing professional markets. Very few employers take on staff for life these days, in fact, it is almost expected that employees will move regularly throughout their professional lives, picking up skills and experiences on their transient journey to the top! By this very token, it is almost impossible to train for skills in jobs that have yet to be invented! Therefore, it makes common sense, to at least train the winning mindset, which will enable the young person to not only cope with this situation, but to thrive and flourish, making the most of opportunities, even searching them out almost before they are on the horizon! This winning mindset would comprise self esteem, performance confidence, resilience and simple emotional intelligence.

In addition to this need to train attitude (“attitude training” is not included in the national curriculum), I suspect we are also seeing a greater invasion into the lives of young children, where childhoods are being interrupted before family values and positive influences can be fully formed? There is also a growing threat to young people in the form of today’s media! The pervasive negative effects of the media, especially in terms of perpetuating the perfect body, can have serious life changing side effects. Add to this, the immediacy and accessibility of social media which has produced nefarious opportunities to marginalise and ostracise. This has resulted in cyber bullying, and sadly, loss of life.

With all these threats to child wellbeing and future development, no wonder many parents and teachers are concerned for “their” children. To counteract some of these threats, is it not time for a planned intervention of developing a winning mindset which will complement the traditional family values, and prepare a child for all the new and rapidly changing personal and future professional challenges?

The multi-national company Dove, which joined forces with Beat, an eating disorders charity, has actively been addressing body image issues and has taken its Body Awareness Programme not only to KS 3 and 4, but from September 2013, it will be delivered into schools at KS2! Having been registered as a North West specialist to deliver this message, I have seen first hand, the positive benefits of addressing body image, media and peer pressure. As an independent practitioner at KS2, this message is even more urgent, relevant and necessary. Parts of the PSHCE programme addresses this issue, but often this is only in a cursory manner, and resilience is never developed.

Having worked for a number of years in special education with EBD children, I became painfully aware that young people can have set limiting beliefs even at age 11, and often set against a backdrop of family failure and breakdown, the self esteem and operating confidence is fragile at best. Equally, having taught in private education, and whilst on the surface, most students seem to have a better than average quotient of self esteem and self belief, this can be easily manipulated, especially by the media and peers. The result being that children are prone to value themselves less, and almost fear failure for not being perfect.

Within private schools, I have witnessed another key issue, which is application and performance. Some students either possess apathy and procrastination, or have a fear of failure that negatively affects their examination performance.

The introduction of initiatives such as SEAL, curriculum PSHCE and latterly, the obsolete ECM, have been introduced to address the body image and mindset of students. These are valuable in essence, but in reality, this provision is woefully short. Equally, the problem does not lie with the child, as they are an empty vessel ready to be filled with pertinent knowledge and experiences.

As a former teacher who has taught at all levels of educational provision in the UK and overseas, I recognise this need to prepare today’s young children for tomorrow’s world. I currently deliver bespoke engagement activities at a number of private independent schools in the northwest. It was at one of these schools that I recently had the privilege to change a young life. I delivered an interactive self esteem, body awareness and mindset session. Less than an hour later, I had received an email informing me that one particular student at early KS3, had taken prayers for the first time….a very pleasing outcome for all concerned.

This school has since asked me to return to deliver a number of bespoke sessions on developing the winning mindset as part of my 30 programme. Similarly, other schools have asked me to address common issues such as exam nerves, making learning stick through memory techniques, fear of public speaking and resilience training. In fact, more staff are now wanting to know how they too can take advantage of a winning mindset! This work covers areas such as re-motivating staff, and making staff more emotionally intelligent where they are more aware of the needs of others.

One of the most difficult parts of my work, is to quantify success. This is a common question that is levelled not just at me, but towards attitudinal work in general. My answer is very simple. Not only can it be measured, evaluated and improved against established data, and against personal improvements, but that the ultimate test is in the honest questioning of young people, and their demonstration of that winning mindset…..I have seen this demonstrated daily.

Finally, one of the most effective measures of a winning mindset is the ability to overcome and beat failure. We are all going to encounter failure at some points in our lives, so why not produce the necessary antidote to this now. Give the child the opportunity to understand that attitude, body image and self esteem are the foundation stones, the ability to act and gain experience is the central column and emotional intelligence is the icing on the cake!

That is not only a teachers’ gift, but also a parents’ gift for life!

Ross McWilliam BA (Hons) MSc PGCE LCSP