The epidemic wreaked havoc on many children’s lives over the last year, disrupting practically every area of their everyday existence. While “caregivers can’t always change children’s circumstances or protect them from distress,” therapist and school counselor Phyllis L. Fagell writes for The Washington Post, “they can give a more lasting gift: abilities to manage hardship.”
Educators, on the other hand, clearly play a critical role in helping students acquire the desire and ability to persist in challenging situations in school and life—this year and at any time.
According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, a developmental psychologist and author, when educators assist children in “cultivating an orientation to life that considers challenges as a key element of success, we help them build resilience.”
“Resilience is not a genetic feature,” says the author. It is drawn from how toddlers learn to think and act when confronted with major and tiny barriers.” When adults in children’s lives—caregivers, instructors, and coaches—assist them in developing resilience, they “emerge from stressful events with a positive view of themselves and their futures,” according to Price-Mitchell.
It’s a skill that takes time to master. “We want to keep our muscles strong and flexible so we can think of many different approaches to tackle a problem,” Mary Alvord, a psychologist, and author explain Fagell. “At its foundation, resilience is the concept that, while you may not be able to control everything in your life, you can influence many aspects of it, especially your attitude.”
Here are five techniques for helping kids develop the critical ability for resilience:
Set Brave Objectives
According to psychologist Ryan C.T. DeLapp, a significant component of growing resilience is being able to define personal goals and then “tolerate the discomfort that’s producing resistance toward that goal.” A bold goal for this year might be to engage students to think about the camera-on/camera-off conundrum and how it affects their personal and academic advancement. “Is not being on camera interfering with your academics, or making it more difficult for you to be visual socially once the outbreak is over?” DeLapp wonders. “That gives you a chance to score a courageous goal.”
A SMART framework is used by many instructors to help students develop personal objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. “Writing SMART goals is not easy,” argues Maurice J. Elias, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University. “This is a skill that takes time to develop, and secondary pupils must have in place.”
“I shall do better on my next report card,” Elias writes as an example of an imprecise objective. “In the next marking period, I will take careful notes and review them at least two days before tests and quizzes so that I can ask the teacher questions about what I don’t understand,” a more productive goal might look like: “In the next marking period, I will take careful notes and review them at least two days before tests and quizzes so that I can ask the teacher questions about what I don’t understand.” I’ll finish my math homework before going out with my friends, and when I turn it in, I’ll ask the teacher any questions I have. When I make a mistake, I’ll make a point of asking the teacher or one of my students how they came up with the correct solution.”
It’s especially crucial to celebrate a child’s achievement once he or she achieves a goal, according to DeLapp. “Take time to reflect on their daring goal’s progress, and show gratitude and delight when they achieve it,” Fagell suggests.
Learning From Mistakes As A Model
Failure is “crucial” to becoming a resilient young person, according to Price-Mitchell. Teachers can help by creating a classroom environment in which “failure, setbacks, and disappointment are expected and honored parts of learning,” where students are “praised for their hard work, perseverance, and grit, not just for grades and easy successes,” and where they are held accountable for producing work that they feel “ownership and internal reward” for.
Consider putting up a school bulletin board where, in addition to displaying students’ accomplishments, “kids can brag about their worst blunders and what they learned from them,” as an educational consultant and author Richard Curwin suggested. “Be careful to inform the class about your blunders, especially if they’re amusing, and what you learned from them,” Curwin, who died in 2018, wrote. Allow students to repair errors and resubmit work, and be aware of when their work improves, as “nothing indicates learning from mistakes more than improvement,” according to Curwin.
In a 2017 study, math professor Amanda Jansen and her co-authors propose explicitly labeling some exercises “rough-draft thinking,” providing students “freedom to ask questions, make mistakes, and then revise without the suffocating potential of failure.”
Push For Responsible Risks
Daniel Vollrath, a high school special education teacher, compares perseverance to a stress ball. “A stress ball is durable,” Vollrath adds, “since it rebounds back to its original shape after being crushed.” “Similarly, when kids encounter stress or dissatisfaction, we might think of it as a form of pressure from which they must recover. The goal is that by presenting them with resilience-building tactics, they will be able to overcome their dissatisfaction and return to a state of optimal and productive learning focus.”
Recognize and compliment students who take acceptable risks and challenge themselves—even and perhaps especially when they don’t get the desired results—as one method to promote resilience. For instance, speaking up during a Zoom session to answer a question, even if the answer is erroneous, or “stumbling on words when reading out loud,” according to Vollrath. “These are opportunities to increase confidence and risk-taking, as well as to maintain a resilient forward momentum while in a safe environment.”
Difficult Emotions Label
From elementary school to high school, students can learn to recognize and name emotions, which can help them “become self-aware and begin to manage their emotional states effectively—psychologists call this labeling,” according to Jorge Valenzuela, an education coach and adjunct professor at Old Dominion University. Students who learn to recognize, name, and understand their emotions are better prepared to make reasonable decisions and deal with unsettling or disruptive emotions in their life, all of which are important aspects of resilience.
Quick daily emotional check-ins are an excellent place to start in the classroom. Valenzuela sets the framework for these early in the year, utilizing Plutchik’s Wheel of Feelings to teach kids the vocabulary they may use to express the emotions they’re experiencing—with varying levels of complexity according to grade level. Valenzuela explains, “I feel that [the emotion wheel] helps students identify their emotions and their responses to those emotions.” “In addition, students can distinguish that other emotions are made up of or derived from one or more of the eight fundamental emotions. This is a life-changing insight for them, as it allows them to recognize emotional triggers and prepare how to respond with effective self-management tactics.”
Write And Speak About Setbacks And Human Fortitude
Writing projects focused on “sources of personal strength” in middle and high school can help students explore multiple strategies to build resilience, according to Price-Mitchell, who offers a few suggestions to get started: “Describe a person who helped you through a very trying or terrible moment. How did they assist you in overcoming this obstacle? “What have you discovered about yourself?” “Write about a period in your life when you had to deal with a difficult issue,” says another suggestion. What factors aided and hindered you in overcoming this obstacle? What did you take away from this experience that will benefit you in the future?”
The concept of resilience, on the other hand, isn’t limited to one class—for example, ELA—applicable across the curriculum. “There are several opportunities to link resilience to personal success, achievement, and positive societal change,” says Price-Mitchell. “Extend talks about political leaders, scientists, literary personalities, entrepreneurs, and inventors beyond their accomplishments to their personal qualities and the challenges they faced and overcame to achieve their goals.” Through these success stories, help children learn to perceive themselves and their talents.”
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