Head of School Blog

Brain Plasticity, Resilience, and….Basketball?

Jill Singleton
A current area of significant focus among educators is the issue of resilience. While the acquisition of skills has been the intended outcome of education for many, many years, the shift now is from the development of a skillset to the growth of a mindset. There are many differences between the two. The goal of education is shifting from producing learned people, to producing expert learners. Having a growth mindset and being an excellent learner assures that an individual will be able to adapt to the ever-shifting landscape of our future. Developing true learners requires resilience, without which a person will shrink at challenges, or when confronting things he or she is “not good at.” Coupled with a growth mindset and self-awareness, resilience allows a person to intelligently navigate and power through even the most difficult of challenges – supported by an attitude that says, “I may not be naturally good at this, but with some strategy and effort on my part, I can learn this.” One thing that research is showing again and again is that the more we understand how we learn and the more resilience we have for learning, the greater our achievements will be. We now know that intelligence is not fixed, and that our brains are indeed “plastic.” Together resilience and plasticity are a formidable duo: working in tandem, Aesop’s proverbial tortoise can in fact overtake the hare.

While musing on the content for my blog this week, I had the pleasure of watching the first game of the basketball season, and sitting in the bleachers surrounded by faithful fans who have supported our underdog players for years, I realized I was seeing the power of resilience right before my eyes. Over the past few years, our fledgling Middle School has fielded a team of youngsters who were smaller, younger and fewer in number than the more seasoned teams in the independent school league. Despite these obvious disadvantages, our players have always demonstrated the most amazing spirit, optimism and – resilience! These qualities have been demonstrated with such intensity that even our opponents have cheered for us when we scored or otherwise held our own. After each game, no matter the score, I left feeling more alive and enriched by the amazing skills our students displayed – the ability to stick to a challenge, to maintain a positive outlook, to believe in what’s possible, to persevere with a sense of true joy, and to never take ourselves too seriously. I have to believe it is these skills that will be responsible for their successes and accomplishments in life.

While sitting in the bleachers and reflecting on these ideas, a wonderful thing happened – we won! Our students played with the most amazing heart and soul you could imagine; and with the most precious blend of determination and joy, the Saints earned an amazing victory. Not being well-versed in the field of sports reporting, I asked alumni parent Bob Conrad (and Debbie’s Jacobus’ husband) and Coach Richard to supply me with the language to convey that magic that happened on the court Monday night. Here goes…

Before a capacity crowd at the Wallace School Gymnasium on Monday, the Saints Basketball team opened its season with a thrilling 27-26 victory over Elysian Charter School’s Green team. Despite trailing by as many as 7 points in the first half, the team never lost its composure or spirit and rallied behind the sharpshooting of Justin Brown, who led the Saints with 15 points. Andrew Aarts controlled the game on both ends of the floor, playing great defense and chipping in with 8 points. Lucy Walkowiak led both teams with 15 rebounds and contributed a key basket down the stretch, when the game was still very much in doubt. Alex Cando was a demon on defense, guarding Elysian’s top scorers, and also contributed 2 key points. Abigail Hosford contributed by picking up some key rebounds. Davion Massey and Tashary Castano kept cool and calm during their first game and gathered experience with good passing. Each played important roles in the win, adding great defense and hustle. A special “Sixth Man” award goes to the many families, friends, staff, faculty, students and alumni who were in attendance – it truly was “A community win!”

Please take advantage of learning more about brain plasticity and resilience by coming to our first PA-sponsored Parent Speakers series “You Child’s Brain on January 30th, 7:00pm at the St. Nicholas Center AND be sure to catch our next basketball game on January 14th at 7:15 at the Wallace School Gym!

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: jsingleton@allsaintshoboken.com.