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Strength of Character

As a flight surgeon with the US Helicopter Regiment, Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum was aboard a Black Hawk helicopter on a search and rescue mission, looking for a downed F-16 pilot, during the Persian Gulf War. When the helicopter was shot down, she suffered two broken arms, a broken finger, a gunshot wound in the back, and numerous other injuries. After regaining consciousness, she said her first thought was “Nobody’s ever died from pain”. Dr Cornum survived appalling treatment as a Prisoner of War and now leads character-building workshops in resilience. I am fortunate in having participated in her Resilience Training Instructor Courses, and at Investigator College we are clear in our strategies to enhance the wellbeing of students, teachers and community.

Resilient Thinking

Every moment of every day will not be perfect. We all need to accept this fact and develop positive coping skills to enable us to deal with anxiety and stress. The cultivation of gratitude plays a vital role here. As well as building optimism and positive emotions, gratitude is closely aligned with the development of vital social relationships.

As parents it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what didn’t go well, how many spelling words our children got wrong, or ‘friendship fires’ with other students being reported the moment your child gets home. We need to take the time to reflect on what actually went well, the words they spelt accurately, and positive interactions that have occurred. As adults we might list in our diaries each day something that went well, a goal you achieved, why it went well, and how you or other people contributed to this success.

It is also good practice to get the teacher’s professional perspective before launching into attack mode or contacting other parents about the alleged behaviour of another student.

Great benefits come from taking the time to look at your situation closely, and to write down or discuss what you are grateful for in your life. We might have had a bad experience, but let us not forget the good times, or the valued relationships, in our lives.

Making Meaning

When faced with adversity, or even an awkward situation, it is easy to fall in a heap and feel sorry for ourselves. Instead, we need to learn to reflect on the opportunities afforded by our circumstances. We can ask ourselves these questions.

  • What else could this situation or experience mean?
  • Can anything good come from it?
  • Does it present any opportunities for me?
  • What lessons can I learn and apply to my future actions?
  • Is this an opportunity for me to reinforce my core values and beliefs?
  • Did I develop any strengths as a result?

Adversity can sometimes bring people together, and inspire others to live out their values.

Values-Based Goals

Even through tough times, we still have the power to influence our course through goal-setting. Try setting immediate, short-term and long-term goals. Consider possible obstacles and strategies to help overcome these. By sharing these goals you have made yourself more accountable and therefore more likely to achieve success. Being clear about what you value in life can make it easier to get back on track. For example, if you value good health and fitness, you might set yourself a regular walking goal, and achieving this can boost your self-respect immensely.


During times of stress and adversity, mindfulness enables us to refocus on areas within our sphere of influence, and to take purposeful action. Too often we are so focused on the past that we forget to enjoy the present. Meditation can help here, and this can be as simple as closing your eyes for one minute and listening to your breathing or the sounds of your environment. Others may choose to focus on a beautiful South Coast view or even watching the clouds. Personally, I find the call of seagulls (which I can hear from my office) and the sound of waves lapping to be quite therapeutic.

During an emotional flurry, it helps if you can identify the aspects that you have control over, and ask, “What is important right now?” Reflect on your values and decide what it is that you want to stand for right now. We must also accept that there are some things that we cannot change, and focus our energy on areas where we can actually make a difference. Investigator students are becoming quite skilled in this area.


Participating in acts of kindness has been shown to not only make the recipient feel good but, in times of adversity, it can also improve your own wellbeing and sense of character. It can strengthen relationships and connections to the community, as well as restore meaning and purpose to your life. The strong emphasis on service learning at Investigator College is an example of kindness. The first African–American Congresswoman in the US, Shirley Anita Chisholm, once said:

“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”  We gain so much from the contributions of others, so it makes sense that we should give back to this wonderful world – and it feels good.

Our Year 6 students showed tremendous kindness serving others recently through making cards to brighten the day of people living in aged care facilities. Thank you to Jack Prosser and his family for facilitating this. See facebook link here.

Thank you!

I am delighted to report that families are continuing to make the move to Investigator based on your enthusiastic recommendations. Last week we even had a family book a tour after observing the respectful behaviour exhibited by four Year 9s in a park in Goolwa: Ken Angus, Judd O’Donnell, Ryan Pearce and Cody Ryan. Congratulations to these students.

John Robinson

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