Qualities of Leadership Series: #2 Resilience

What do you consider important for students to know? Is it the content in your class? Is it how to apply that content to everyday life? Or, might it be how to keep working through a problem they might encounter along the way?

Fostering resilience is part of an educator’s job. It is also a parent’s job. This is opposed to fostering dependency.

There are several ways that resilience can be fostered both at home and in the school setting. Some possible ways for parents and teachers have to nurture resilience are:

  1. Resist being a “Fixer.” This is hard. I know from personal experience the natural drive is to “make everything alright.” You are tempted to help your child solve the problem or even solve it for them. While this might be okay, depending on the problem and the age of the child, it is essential that eventually your child or student be allowed to figure out their own solution.
  2. Encourage problem solving. Allow the student to brainstorm the solution to a problem when it arises. This mean accepting the consequences of not only the problem but also the solution that is generated.  For example if the solution to procrastination or a lack of time is turning in a paper late, the consequence might be that full points are not received. In turn, the consequence should initiate a response in the student/child to make them think of ways to avoid the consequence in the future (which in this case means turning it in on time, and planning accordingly to accomplish the task with timeliness.)  Providing excuses for problems does not allow the student/child to be part of the consequences or solution.
  3. Acknowledge that what works for one person, might not work for others. This speaks to Multiple Intelligences – a theory developed by Harold Gardner from Harvard University.  In this theory, Gardner asserts that there are more forms of intelligence (8) that govern how students learn (Armstrong, n.d.). This means six more forms than just logic or linguistics. Some of these intelligences include artistic, kinesthetic, and musical strengths. We must allow each individual to find out what works for them. This happens through a time of self-reflection. Time must be allowed for students/children to discover how they learn, how they solve problems, and how they work to correct them. In other words, allow them to learn from their own mistakes. And, from a teaching perspective be sure to allow different types of content delivery methods or instructional strategies (if you want the academic terms) to enter and deepen your teaching toolbox and classroom.
  4. Do not encourage dependency, especially in high school. Instead, encourage multiple ways of re-learning or correcting mistakes. Do not be the provider of the ONLY solution or expect the student to solve their problem (often academic struggling) using only your methods.  Assuredly, there are others.  Some of the other solutions might work better for certain students. Do not assume you have to be part of the solution.
  5. Do not assume. Period.

Learning is a growth process and requires the learner to think about how they best learn, or to perform metacognition (thinking about thinking). A learner naturally makes mistakes. If the mistakes lead to failure and the learner persists in the task, despite the failure, this is resiliency.

So the question for those in leadership positions is, can you teach resiliency? And, if so, how? The answer is yes, resiliency can be taught. And, a good way to start is by being a resilient role model.  Too often, of late, we are seeing one set of standards set for students and another set forth for staff. This is not the way to role model expected or even desired behavior such as being resilient. Did you even teach a lesson and then think – I could (and should have done that better or different?).  Did you then take steps to make it better by changing your method, expectations, outcomes, or assessments? Are you role modeling resilience? In what ways? Have you ever shared your resiliency with your students? If not, you should.

Adults involved in the lives of students, whether they are in your class or in your home, need to encourage resiliency.  We also need to role model it.  This means not giving up when times get tough, or when you don’t understand, or when you are too tired to care, or when you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Push forward.

Think about what you, as an educator, want as an end result for your students. Isn’t it for them to become life-long learners, able to problem solve and make valuable contributions to an increasingly global society, starting with their own communities? I know it is what I want for my students and others. We must nurture resiliency. It is a powerful thing to witness when a student realizes that they have the capacity to push forward, make changes, and re-tackle a task or content that stymied them previously. If we encourage dependency on ourselves, as educators, or as parents, that will never happen.

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Reference: Anderson, T. Multiple Intelligences. (n.d.). http://www.institute4learning.com/resources/articles/multiple-intelligences/

13 thoughts

  1. I wish I had a “love” button for your post. You provided some important reminders about building resilience and I especially appreciated the gentle reminder that we have to practice what we are asking of our students. Thank you for always sharing posts that are so thought-provoking!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! I apologize for my late reply. I am glad you thought the post could be useful as a reminder – however, I am sure you do not need one! I am interested in leadership qualities and how they can be used to better provide for our students (or not). Upcoming: Transparency.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish I knew what makes one student resilient and another throw her hands up in surrender. I think about this often. I know that trauma can play a role in both scenarios.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would be a wonderful thing to be able to figure out, wouldn’t it? Yes, trauma can work both ways. Our district is moving to a trauma informed model but a question I have is what happens when the trauma occurs in school itself? (from bullying, disparaging remarks, or worse) We have to figure out what to do in those cases….because unfortunately, there are some!


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