Teaching Students to Overcome Adversity

Author: Joe McCarthy

My goal is for students to learn how to overcome obstacles, whether at school, at home, with friends, or in sports. I want to equip students with the tools and knowledge to prepare them to make positive choices. I want students to feel that they can overcome anything!

Finding Strength in Challenges
Research has shown that people who have faced significant adversity are often more successful. However, adversity can be hard. Teachers can use adversity as an opportunity to help students get better, grow stronger, change, and learn. Overcoming adversity can help make students more resilient, develop new skills and perspectives, and have a greater appreciation for what they have. The goal is for anyone to realize that they never have to back down when faced with adversity.

Building Character and Resilience
Overcoming obstacles is an essential part of life. It teaches us valuable lessons, builds character, and can help us reach our highest potential. It’s not something to be feared or avoided; rather, it should be embraced as a necessary part of personal growth and development. Without adversity and failures, there would be no room for growth or the development of resilience. Adversity teaches us valuable lessons about ourselves, the power of endurance, and the importance of occasional discomfort. We realize our full potential and discover our inner strength when overcoming obstacles.

The Role of Positive Self-Talk
Self-esteem helps kids do better at school, at home, and with friends. Kids with low self-esteem feel unsure of themselves. They may not join in if they think others won’t accept them. They may let others treat them poorly and have difficulty standing up for themselves. Children who have a sense of self can challenge themselves. This helps them develop independence and become more confident when facing challenges in other areas of learning. If children do not feel a sense of security, they may not be able to settle into their environment and may struggle to learn or develop. With continuous positive self-talk, children can learn to develop a healthy image of themselves and, in turn, boost their self-confidence. Negative thoughts often lead to negative emotions, behaviors, and poorer outcomes.

Inspiring Future Growth
My goal is to provide students with information about their skills and talents by saying more than simple encouragement like “Good job!” and “That’s great!” In one of my recent Physical Education classes, I posted a question for the students to reflect on. The question was, “What can you say to yourself that will help you overcome something in life that is challenging to you?” Students were given a Post-It to write a motivational message. I was amazed by their responses! Finally, I allowed students to read their classmates’ responses and noticed they learned new phrases. My goal is for this exercise to help students in the future when they need a moment of inspiration. Here are some examples of what students wrote:

  • Never give up, even though it’s hard!
  • I can do this!
  • Don’t give up, you got this!
  • It can be hard sometimes but keep going!
  • You are amazing, you can do this!

“Our job as teachers is not to ‘prepare’ kids for something; our job is to help kids learn to prepare themselves for anything.”

This quote is on a poster leading into my gym. It reminds me daily to be mindful of our opportunity to build relationships with our students.

Joe McCarthy
Physical Education Teacher
MNSHAPE TOY

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