Matthew Morin: Overcoming Adversity

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With heartfelt honesty, Matthew Morin shares his story of overcoming adversity to get in touch with his dream, his inner flame and his resources. Supported by relationships and experiences at school, Matthew’s story of emotional growth is also a story about taking on a physical challenge in a safe environment - in order to learn that “we are stronger than we think we are.”

Professional Development:

Share this video with colleagues to spark an exploration of how experiential learning[1] may be integrated into traditional school experiences in a way that fosters Heart-Mind well-being and builds resilience[2].

Classroom Application:

Use the video and questions below as a starting point to engage students in reflection and dialogue.

1. Hook Activity: Think-Pair-Share

Invited students to think about a time when their heart was educated in school. (Prompt: When they learned about and/or experienced compassion, kindness, positive relationships, and/or solving problems with others.)

With a partner, share and listen to the stories.

2.  Video

Show the video and discuss how Matthew’s story is one of perseverance, confidence, and connectedness. Invite students to share with the whole group what they know or heard in the video, recording responses to the following questions on chart paper.

  • List some of the struggles that Matthew dealt with when he was younger.

  • Why would these things make school life hard/difficult?

  • What goal did Matthew have?

  • Create a question you would like to ask Matthew about his personal experiences.

3. Exploring Key Ideas

  • What does it mean to feel ‘connected” to the “social place that is school”?

  • Tell a story about a time when another person (a teacher, student, coach) did something that helped you feel more connected to your school.

  • How can you and the people around you make school feel more like a warm and inviting community? Explain in words or illustrate it.

4.  Extending & Connecting Key Ideas

Matthew attended an alternative high school. He says that he jogged everyday at school and it taught him to be strong mentally, push through his suffering and discipline himself. He was challenged to reach new levels and do his best.

  • Think of and describe a challenge that you have faced and write about how you approached it. What is your motivation to achieve what you want? What aspects of that situation made you feel you were doing well or reflect on what you could have done differently.

  • Describes your relationships with the people who helped you navigate the challenge?

  • If someone you know was facing a challenge of their own, how might you go about understanding their situation or helping them through it?

In a review of the literature on how challenge, adventure and real-world experiences create powerful learning opportunities for youth, Brendtro and Strother connect concepts from the turn of the century (John Dewey) with modern neuroscience. They suggest that programs that include challenge and adventure offer an authentic, experiential education curriculum that meet goals of developing a sense of belonging, competence, agency and compassion.

Researchers call the ability to handle challenging situations in a way that promotes well-being "resilience."  

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.