Vicarious Resilience: Resilient Schools

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Over the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to attend a four-day resilience conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the Resilience Research Center.

Halifax is beautiful and I loved it.  I was impressed with Canada and I would like to take my family back to Halifax in the future for a summer vacation.  The homes were quaint, the culture surprisingly diverse, the landscape green, and the urban design fascinating.  The city is very relaxed.  Two thumbs up for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The resilience conference, sponsored by the Resilience Research Center, titled Pathways to Resilience III: Beyond Nature vs Nurture, exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable.  There were 540 delegates from 46 different countries taking part in over 300 presentations around the topic of resilience.  The content was deep, the delegates committed, and the atmosphere transparent and inspiring.  Having attended this international conference, I was told that I am now a member of the “Resilience Mafia.”

One of the first presentations I attended at the resilience conference was by Dr. Pilar Hernandez-Wolfe.  During her presentation she brought up the concept of “vicarious resilience,” which was exceptional.

“Vicarious” means that we experience emotions and imagination, life, on some level through another person.  For example, we are sitting at home while our best friend travels the world and blogs about it.  We are able to travel and dream vicariously through their experiences.

Likewise, when we interact with, help, and teach students, we learn from them, often times, how to be more resilient through their resilient life stories and actions.  This is vicarious resilience.

Vicarious resilience is making new meaning from, growing and transforming in some way, personally, through the experiences of interacting with another person’s resilience. Dr. Pilar Hernandez-Wolfe

Meaning to say, sometimes when we witness a student experience adversity and get up and stand tall afterward, we learn from them.

As teachers, therefore, we can observe carefully the stories of resilience around us that show up in our classrooms and then allow these stories to permeate the culture of our classrooms.  We may become more resilient by understanding the stories and lives of resilient students and talking about them.

At staff meetings, teachers and leadership may begin to discuss those students who have faced adversity, or are facing adversity, and focus on those students who have or are showing signs of resilience, doing well, despite their challenges.  How might these individual students show us the way forward and help us to develop a stronger, more resilient school culture?

Resilience begets resilience.

The reason I share the above is because I know that it’s very easy to focus on those students who are failing and continue to fail and are not showing signs of doing well.  Of course we don’t write these students off, but I am suggesting that we focus on students who have failed, are failing, but are showing signs of doing well.  What can we learn from them that may help us with the students not improving?

Stand tall my friends and surround yourself with stories of resilience and resilient people.

Vicarious resilience, it’s worth considering.

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resilience + resistance + socialism

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