Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Can You Teach Resilience?

This morning I read this post when a friend linked it on Facebook. While it's over a year old, I'd guess it is still relevant. I looked at it as both a parent and a teacher. As I drove my youngest son to basketball this morning, I told him he was on his own to get to the pool and back this afternoon. It's about a mile each way, so I think he can handle it. 

He was not thrilled. 

This alone made me pause and reflect on what I've been teaching him if he thinks my summer should be spent as his Uber driver.

I digress.

Coming home I read the article linked above. Reading item three, I thought back over this school year. There are several students who I still feel like I failed. They are perfectly capable of doing the work, but cannot manage their assignments. I reminded them daily of the work they were missing in all subjects, not just mine. They managed to finish up seventh grade, but where will that land them in the future? They still cannot organize themselves. 

And I worry.

Growing up, I know things were different. I did not tell my parents about every kid who was mean to me, or even every teacher, and expect them to fix it. Life was not perfect, but you figured out how to roll with the punches. Looking over this article I can't help but remember my first year in college. I went out of state to a university in the south. I hated it. For a variety of reasons I wanted to transfer within the first seven weeks of school. I knew this was not my place. My parents requested, fairly, that I make it through the first year and transfer for my sophomore year. 


I knew I needed to transfer at the semester. This was not the place for me. So, I sold plasma to get a Greyhound bus ticket home. I called (days before email, folks) the community college in the nearby city to my hometown. I made an appointment with an advisor. I called the university in that same town. Made an appointment with that advisor. 

A few days later, unbeknownst to my parents, I took the Greyhound six hours home, met with the university advisor, asked about transferring and showed him the courses I had taken so far. He explained I could transfer in as a junior. (They didn't accept students until then.) I asked what courses I would need to be prepared. He gave me a list. 

I took a city bus across town, met with the advisor of the local community college. Gave that advisor the list of classes I needed for the next three semesters, enrolled myself for the spring semester of my freshman year, and caught the Greyhound back to the university I was currently attending. 

And I called my parents. I informed them what I had done and where I would be attending school come January. I explained that I knew I was in the wrong place and didn't want to wait another four months to keep making the same mistake. While they didn't completely understand why I had to switch schools, they supported me.

Looking back, I'm amazed at how stubborn I was at the age of 18. I'm also floored that I went to three different schools and still managed to graduate in four years. 

I can also see resilience. 

My life was pretty blessed in most respects. I never had to worry about having my needs met. My family was awesome. But what I think I really benefited from was high expectations and the lesson that you make your own life. If things weren't going the way I wanted, I was expected to fix it. This was never fully expressed, but shown by example. 

It made an impression.

I worry about the kids growing up now. I think they have more potential than anyone who has come before. Yet, I hate seeing us (me included) not holding them accountable for their own actions. Not making them figure out their own way out. I worry about so many things for these kids - social media, reliance on technology, not to mention participation ribbons and trophies. I want them to feel value in themselves because they've worked hard, not just because they show up. 

Resilience is important. I'm not sure how to teach it, beyond how my parents did, by example. Adults often say, "Kids these days...", but I don't think they are the ones creating the problem. We are, right? 

I don't know what the answers are, but I'm going to keep looking for them.