Is resilience a bad word?

bucketA blog by @nataliescott got me thinking. Her questions on resilience and examples of how perhaps we are pushing people to their limits, unhealthily, made me doubt myself. I had just written a blog which almost suggested that students weren’t resilient enough and how we needed to teach them “ how to fail “ and be ok with it. Was I pushing students to hard? Was I expecting too much from them?

Stuart Jessup from @mindcharity explained resilience in an excellent way, and I need a diagram to help. He explained that everyone was a bucket. Life was the water that filled us up. We all had different levels of water for different reasons. Life and stress would add more and more water.  To release the water, we need an outlet. Be it talking with friends, going for a run or listening to music. Each outlet lets out different amounts of water. Sometimes the water spills over, but that’s ok because water is easy to clean up and doesn’t make a mess. It’s when there is a waterfall that we need to worry.  Perhaps I am using the word resilience when I mean “coping strategies”, a phrase that is often mentioned by CAMH staff. Sometimes pupils can cope with the pressure and things life throws at them but other times their coping mechanisms aren’t in place and they need to think of strategies and this includes asking for help.

For every example you can think of when students have crumbled under the immense pressure, I can think of students who have crumbled over the simplest thing.

  • Getting straight A’s in assessments apart from one subject which they got a C
  • Misunderstanding the question
  • Losing a sock
  • Getting a look from a friend ( this student was 19 years old and it wasn’t a consistent thing)
  • Forgetting to send an email to excuse themselves for a music lesson

All of these are life lessons. Things that we have all done and have learnt from. This is why I think it’s so important that they fail at some point and know how to pick themselves up. This is what I think resilience means. Alright we need to be supportive of each other and try not to pile too much work on students and staff alike but its learning how to cope with silly little things that I am concerned about. Is perhaps failure is the bad word?

There were comments on twitter that some staff rooms have competitions to see what staff can cope with pressure and increased work load, what kind of staff room is this? Everyone copes with things in different ways, that doesn’t mean that they are better than you, it just means that we are all different. That’s why teaching is so amazing, pupils get to meet all kinds of characters and learn from each of them.  They see teachers as role models and some days we can cope and other days we may be a little stressed, but this is ok. I was once told that I was a negative role model because “ people are amazed how you cope and it puts pressure on them that they have to cope”. I am not sure how to answer this.  As a DSL I can’t break down in tears when a child discloses to me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a little cry when I am at home. And surely no one wants a member of SLT who can’t cope with difficult situations.  You want a DSL to be someone who listens and cares but can make challenging decisions when they need to. It almost feels like dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t.

Communication is key to all of this. Natalie suggested that we are kinder and support each other and I totally agree. SLT need to look out for staff and staff need to be honest and communicate with SLT so that help can be given. This needs to be done in a non-patronising way, in an honest and caring manner.  It could so easily turn into a tick box exercise or even a rota within the SLT.  Again Natalie got me thinking. As a DSL I work with students a lot, but do I praise and support my staff enough? Am I pushing them to deal with challenging situations without giving them support?  Am I expecting them to be resilient? We as staff cannot fail when dealing with safeguarding issues so have to be resilient, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t support each other and take the responsibility as a team.

So thank you Natalie for getting me thinking, I will defiantly ponder on this more.

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Assistant Head ( DSL) at a boarding school. Interested in all PSHE and safeguarding topics.

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