On the Friday when schools closed, I had the pleasure of sitting with year 11 girls in a drama studio. We spoke about resilience and the situation they found themselves in. I commented resilience was tricky to teach students for it cannot just be bolted in to learning and it has to be experienced or felt. Better still, teachers need to model the concept. In the current context, these students in turn would become extremely resilient as a generation. I commented that in theory they would surely have more bounce back ability than any other students. In fact, the response to the pandemic among young people, like adults spans the spectrum.
Like other big concepts in psychology, a precise, universally agreed-upon definition of resilience in learning is hard to come by. Every child is different, of course. But there are perhaps universal truths about what children might need in order to thrive in uncertain times:
Model calmness, even if you have to fake it!
Children learn from us how to manage stress and solve problems when things are difficult. Constantly watching the news is not self-care. The messages we communicate and model as teachers should incorporate a sense calmness.
Taking a positive tone and using optimistic language can be very powerful
This does not mean obfuscating or hiding unpleasant truths. Effective leaders always find a way to talk about the future with some sense of hope. It’s important to find and use optimistic language so children don’t feel that they are facing imminent threat nor that they are powerless to affect positive change in their future or world.
Establish a flexible routine
Don’t be militant with the schedule. However, structure makes children feel safe, especially during times of upheaval. We have communicated this to parents and students in our weekly newsletters.
Be honest, but don’t tell them more than they need
Children are a bundle of feelings. When you communicate with them through feeling language, it helps them feel heard and seen and understood. It helps them feel like their world makes sense, like the other person gets them.
Screen time has its ups and downs
This is not the time to demonize screens. Young people and parents need to lean on them to get work done. Screens can provide a needed source of connection and comfort. SRA is in a unique position as learners have engaged with iPad in classroom learning and therefore should be more self-regulated in their approach. However, they will need reminders on how best to use digital technology.
Movement is the antidote to screens
The counterbalance to screen time is movement and physical activity. Teachers should continue to share with children links to physical activity.
Teaching resilience through remote learning- Seesaw
One of my favourite strategies for supporting the resilience of students is to capture snapshots of their successful engagement in learning so I can show them back to classes in a sort of highlight reel of their greatest moments. We can capture snapshots on seesaw of how students have invested in learning or a weekly spotlight.
I can then show them that picture later to frame a larger conversation that centers on what they were doing, thinking, and feeling in that moment
Leave students messages to reflect on their resilience in remote learning:
- Today I was successful when….
- I was successful because….
- When I was successful, I felt….
In the first question, we want students to locate a specific moment in the day when they experienced what they can describe as successful. The second question requires the student to identify a choice (or action) of theirs that contributed to the success. Students have to see themselves as engineers of the success through their engagement. The third question asks students to name their positive feelings so that when they retrieve the memory of the success in the future, it will have been reinforced with the emotion.
Reflection, trust, and relationships are key to support students in understanding specifically when and how they overcame obstacles to their engagement.
For teachers, we might experience some silver linings to what’s happening now. We are all being asked to slow down and re-evaluate. As the Queen commented, “the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country”.
This may bring us all back to a deeper understanding on what’s really important. Or what matters when modelling resilience in our classrooms when we return.