CHESS staff member Vincent De Angelis recently attended the Regional Wellbeing Masterclasses for Young People at Southern Cross University and shares his positive experience of the day below

Growth Mindset for Young People

“Be mindful of praise,” says Daniel Hasler, international speaker, coach and our keynote speaker at Coffs’ second Regional Wellbeing Masterclass. “And if you’re going to praise…be specific.”

Hasler’s Masterclass, hosted and organised by Southern Cross University Coffs Harbour was dedicated to bringing together people interested in learning more about how we can help our young people.

Hasler focused on the importance of mindset; and how we can unintentionally create “fixed” mindsets in ourselves and in our young people that hinder learning, progress and wellbeing. The solution to this is something he calls the “growth mindset”, and it’s something he teaches to everyone from Microsoft employees to school teachers.

It turns out that telling young Jimmie that you absolutely love his landscape picture that he drew at school – and unflinchingly adding it to the hallowed refrigerator gallery – is in fact far less healthy for his wellbeing than telling him that you love his use of perspective, and adding that perhaps his tree trunks could be a little straighter.

And judging by the frequent nods and laughter in the lecture theatre it is clear that we had all been there: witnessing, delivering or receiving that kind of vague praise which seems all too familiar in our everyone can achieve everything ego-pacifying world. What Dan proffered was a healthy dose of realism, humour and what seemed like a simple but very good method of encouraging our kids to keep on learning. And the research was there in droves to prove that a mindful praise could do just that. Kids naturally want to please and impress. So why not leverage that drive for their own good?

Hasler’s masterclass was one of three organised by SCU in November 2017; a day designed to give educators, carers and workers a place to workshop the needs of youth and to share ideas on the latest research.

A Busy Day of Diverse Workshopping

The day was a healthy balance of roleplaying, brain puzzles and research and also a choice of wellbeing activity before lunch. Some took the chance to take a ukulele class while others couldn’t resist the body percussion workshop. I chose an excellent indigenous storytelling class with Clark Web and have walked away with more solemn and yet better understanding of the Gumbaynggirr people and their story.

The activities wrapped up with a super delicious lunch catered for by Coffs Happy Frog, before we entered the second masterclass for the day. I chose Mark Le Messurier’s “What’s the Buzz: The Importance of Social and Emotional Literacy,” a workshop that details a picture-book driven technique for teaching adults to teach kids. I felt like I was in second grade again but with an adult brain, looking at the world from a standpoint of “how can I explain how I feel”. It wasn’t a technique for everyone, however I can see why Messurier’s simple, story-driven and role-play-ready exercises have become so successful.

The day concluded with SCU’s Sports Engagement staff member Tim Welsford, presenting us a thoughtful perspective on the significance of exercise – indeed any exercise – and its often undervalued role as the exponential engine of our wellbeing. Tim also thanked our excellent MC for the day, the young SCU education graduate Jasmine Cridge, whose courage and story was an inspiring example of the potential we were there learning how to tap into.

Simple Praise is a Powerful Thing

I was impressed by the thoroughness and quality of the presentations that the SCU managed to squeeze into a single day’s workshop, while still keeping the day relaxed, inclusive, and fun for all. It’s no small feat to draw together seamlessly such a wide demographic of people from youth workers to employment consultants. Perhaps part of the success of the Regional Masterclass was that regardless of what industry we worked in we had all turned up with the same goal: how do we create better outcomes for our youth? And as seems fitting for such a complex issue, the devil may very well be in the detail: A simple praise can be a clumsy or truly powerful thing.