“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
― Nelson Mandela
According to the American Psychological Association, everyone possesses the ability to develop resiliency– skills that will allow them to bounce back from adversity, frustration, and misfortune. Resilience is included as a key Emotional Intelligence skill as part of Roycemore’s Portrait of a Graduate. Research in the field of resilience has explored the concept of “thriving,” in other words, not just muddling through a difficult situation, but growing as a result of a challenge. A 2014 research article on resilience in leadership by Janet Ledesma, posited that one can respond in three ways when confronted with a challenge:
- Survive the difficulty
- Recover from the difficulty
- Thrive as a result of experiencing the difficulty
Indeed, Ledesma argues that thriving results from a “transformation that includes a cognitive shift in response to a challenge. The person may refocus priorities and have a stronger sense of self.” And what determines whether one survives, recovers, or thrives in response to a challenge is closely correlated to one’s level of optimism and hope, along with their connections to caring adults. Such external support helps remind us that we already possess the skills that are needed to overcome any difficulty we might face.
Developing resilience, however, requires both practice and patience. Life will be full of challenges and difficulties. Roycemore intentionally fosters an environment that embraces failure as an important part of the learning process. In fact, we encourage students to allow themselves to fail and try again, accepting mistakes as a natural part of the learning process. We create situations for students to learn how to be flexible and adaptable. Students are given opportunities to develop a growth mindset by learning how to give and receive feedback- both positive and negative. Our mindfulness program helps students practice how to calm their minds and refocus, a skill they can draw upon when encountering stressful situations.
In a small school like Roycemore, students are able to form deep connections with their teachers who serve as their success coaches. Sometimes this might take the form of pushing a student harder when we believe that that push will benefit them. Other times, the teacher may pull back and take a softer approach when they can see that a child needs nurturing more than anything else. It is through these deeper relationships that students become more comfortable with the uncertainty that will inevitably be present in an educational environment that values problem-solving, curiosity, and inquiry. It is an exciting learning experience where asking the right question is equally as important as knowing the “right” answer. Students gain self-confidence, positive self-esteem, self-efficacy, adaptability, and don’t fear failure. They thrive and grow both from positive life experiences and negative ones.
Patterson & Kelleher have written that even resilient individuals can experience a roller coaster of emotions as they work through challenges and not everyone can get to the thriving stage where they experience real growth and become even more resilient. Typically when confronted with great difficulties, an individual deteriorates, then adapts, and hopefully recovers. But those who thrive will experience the fourth phase– a growing phase where they almost seem to have benefitted or flourished due to the pain of a difficult situation. It is when we can transcend that prior level of functioning to reach a whole new plateau that one experiences a great sense of accomplishment. As Angela Duckworth writes, one has developed “grit.”
So the next time your child is struggling, take a moment to pause before rescuing. Sometimes our children need to push through the problem on their own accord more than anything else we can do for them. What you find as a result, might surprise you.
Resources: Roycemore’s library has some great books that weave in the theme of resilience. Stories are some of the best ways to connect and build our own resilience. The following are part of Roycemore’s collection that are recommended by Big Life Journal:
- The Most Magnificent Thing
- Pete the Cat I love my white shoes
- Rosie Revere Engineer
- A perfectly messed – up story
- The Dot
- Sometimes I’m Bombaloo
- Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
- Home of the Brave
- Harry Potter series
- The boy who harnessed the wind
- El Deafo
- A Long Walk to Water (a Middle School Humanities read)
- Out of my mind
In partnership for the education of your students,
Adrianne Finley Odell
Head of School