Saturday, February 26, 2022

Resilience: weathering the storms in our lives

I'm having a busy time with work these days, however this is my first "free" weekend in a long time and I'd decided to use the time preparing for a school visit I'm going to make next month.  I'd set time aside for this and this morning I eagerly logged into the platform to read through the documents submitted by the school ..... only to find they were not yet uploaded.  I needed a change of plan!  So far today I have used this time to clean the car and tidy up the garden, both of these were jobs that needed doing.  Finally, as I was sitting down to eat some lunch I heard a thud and through my door came the next book in the PYP Coordinator Book Club.  I therefore decided I'd have a look at this (though we are not starting on it for a few weeks).  The book is called Onward.  It's by Elena Aguilar and I was keen to read this book having read previous books she's written on coaching.  I've read the introduction, which is all about resilience, and so this is a "sneak preview" of what to expect of the book and of upcoming blog posts about it.

The book is about the spaces in our lives - between the time that something happens and how we respond to it.  Throughout each day educators encounter numerous moments where things don't go quite as planned and where they need to make a response or change a plan.  Although most of these are fairly small in themselves, together then can be huge - leading to exhaustion and burnout.  Elena writes about resilience as being a way of being that allows us to bounce back from adversity stronger than before.  This ability allows us to thrive and to fulfil our purpose in life.

Teaching is both emotional and stressful.  Some stress is healthy but all too often stress in schools is toxic: there are so many demands that our ability to cope is affected leading to decreased productivity, anxiety and frustration.  School leaders in particular need to consider boosting the resilience of their teachers as poor management of stress is a top reason why teachers leave.  Stress in schools tends to be higher in urban areas, secondary classes and in hard-to-staff content areas - and not dealing with the stress leads to high turnover of teachers, which impacts student learning, academically, socially and emotionally.  For years the focus has been on social and emotional support for students, but it's also important that this support is offered to teachers as well.  

Developing resilience depends on 4 main areas:

  • Who we are - which includes our personality, aptitudes and strengths, values and beliefs.
  • Where we are - our own personal life circumstances as well as the professional context of the school.  It's interesting that new teachers struggle with feeling effective, whereas experienced teachers struggle more with challenges of motivation and commitment.
  • What we do - our habits and behaviours
  • How we are - our dispositions that include temperament, character, attitude, habits and behaviours, which are a result of our thinking and beliefs.  Dispositions are not fixed but instead can be learned.
I think this book will mesh nicely with everything I've been learning over the past years about coaching, which is about helping people to change habits and strengthen dispositions.  Also important to note is that to lead transformational efforts, you need to begin by attending to your own transformation.  I'm excited to begin this journey .... so, Onward!

Photo Credit:  Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

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