The recent weeks have been challenging for all of us, as we have had to make the adjustment from regular face-to-face contact to now having to work in the virtual world.
The recent weeks have been challenging for all of us, as we have had to make the adjustment from regular face-to-face contact to now having to work in the virtual world. In recent newsletters and messages, I have tried to focus on some of the positives that we hope can be drawn from this situation, and this month I would like to address the importance of resilience; the development of which is identified as one of our goals within the ISL Qatar Mission Statement.
What is Resilience?
Research shows that resilience is not necessarily something that you are born with. However, it is something that can be developed, and has been identified as a quality often shown by flourishing, adaptable young people and adults. Indeed, it has been shown that there are links between being resilient and being happy, and therefore having less stress. This in turn creates a positive loop where being happy and having less stress increases one’s resilience. (Bookbinder, 2019) Cheryl Hunter, a renowned researcher and author on the topic of resilience, states that “resilience is the ability to not only begin again after adversity, but to do so with no loss of passion, purpose, or power” (Hunter, 2017). Clearly, this is a challenge for us all as we try to come to terms with teaching and learning through a virtual platform, but it is a challenge to be overcome if we are to make the best of our current context. Indeed, the African American educator Booker T. Washington went as far as to say that “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles overcome while trying to succeed.”
We have no doubt that our children have encountered many obstacles over the last few weeks, and will certainly have experienced many challenges. It is important to recognise that we all, teachers and parents, have important roles to play in helping our students develop resilience. In the current context, it must be recognised that the role of the parent has become even more important.
How to Develop Resilience?
Price-Mitchell (2015) states that “resilience is derived from the ways that children learn to think and act when faced with obstacles large and small. The road to resilience comes first and foremost from children's supportive relationships with parents, teachers, and other caring adults. These relationships become sources of strength when children work through stressful situations and painful emotions. When we help young people cultivate an approach to life that views obstacles as a critical part of success, we help them develop resilience.”
In other words, it is possible to learn resilience, but we need to be intentional in our efforts to help our children to think objectively and reflectively at a time when emotions might be running high, and their instinct tells them that this is the last thing that they want to do. When things don’t go as might be hoped for, then we need to encourage self-reflection, planning, and a belief that success is possible if we are prepared to continue to work towards it.
We need to help our children feel a sense of control over their own destinies; to know that they can reach out to others for support when needed while also encouraging them to take the initiative when attempting to solve problems. This in turn requires our relationship to be one that demonstrates understanding and provides support when things go wrong. According to Price-Mitchell (2015) resilience is what enables children to emerge from challenging experiences with a positive sense of themselves and their futures, which is certainly something that we should all be focusing on right now.