Building a resilience culture in our schools

Teachers and school leaders cannot even begin to do the life altering work of resilience building with young people if we do not first start with our teaching workforce.
Resilient staff for resilient schools and students

As this year draws to a close every educator and school leader is tired and weary. Anecdotally, even the saintliest of teachers are finding it hard to keep their cool after what seems like the world’s longest school term. Fatigue has well and truly set in, self-care is non-existent, wellbeing diminished and resilience is low.

In amongst the desire to finish off the year well, is the nagging thought that planning still needs to be done for 2021. This year is unlike any other the EduInfluencers team have experienced before, with our last work call scheduled for the first Monday of the school holidays, long after the bells ring for the final time.

This signals a few things:

  • That teachers and school leaders are running all the way till the end (and then some).
  • That we are expecting more from educators than ever before.
  • That when the madness of the 2020 school year ends, many will still need a critical friend to debrief with.

Like most educators and those who support them, EduInfluencers had 2020 planned out, no one was expecting the relentless changes that took place, term by term, month by month, week by week and sometimes hour by hour. As the world changed, teachers and students needs changed and that meant so did we.

The truth is, we were glad to provide any support we could and our unique position meant that we saw some of the personal “cracks” as they started to appear. Unfortunately, in some cases those cracks seem to have become deep chasms as teachers have battled with limited recovery time – a sure fire way to limit resilience building capability.

Our advice and guidance was simple, “take care of you and your teams” – but isn’t that so much easier said than done? The teaching profession is one that lends itself to supporting and nurturing others, putting self-last and others at the forefront of decision making. Is it any wonder that our teachers are now tired and exhausted and ultimately feeling undervalued for what “we” asked of them during the year? 

Now after this shocker of a teaching year, while they are feeling ever so drained, they are being asked to take on another critical societal role – next year they have to up the ante on student wellbeing and resilience building.

There is not one teacher the EduInfluencers team have worked with that does not try to put students at the centre of their decision making, and that includes the building of positive relationships to support their learning. However, not all educators have the skills to take those relationships even further and actively support wellbeing and resilience building and that is something we cannot waste time in addressing.

If we don’t ensure our ‘teacher resilience’ is high, and that we put measures in place for them to build and maintain personal resilience, how can we then expect that the same teachers will have the ability to build the resilience of students and other staff.

Resilient people are those who are able to emotionally regulate, display self-discipline, and are aware of their impact on others. When our resilience is low we do not always have the capability to moderate this part of ourselves. Problem solving and decision making is also affected when we are low in resilience, and we see significant challenges with a person ability to be adaptable.

These are also critical elements to teach young people to ensure they can recover from setbacks, real or imagined, and to maximise their chances of living healthy and productive lives. If teachers are not shown how to skill build, understand how to develop these areas in themselves, there will be significant difficulty in coaching and guiding others, students included.

Teachers and school leaders cannot even begin to do the life altering work of resilience building with young people if we do not first start with our teaching workforce. They deserve support in order to prepare them for the massive task at hand. We are asking them to help change the course of a generation, to stop cycles and to make impact that goes beyond teaching and learning. Whilst many have spent their careers doing just that, we need to find a way to assist them in this new and challenging world. More than ever teachers need us to advocate and take care of their needs. Resilience teachers need recovery time. Resilience teachers will mean resilience students. Resilience students are our future.

Rochelle Borton is Founder and Managing Director of Eduinfluencers, an organisation that provides professional learning programs, workshops, coaching and consultancy to schools in Australia.