Resilience is the ability to bounce back. We can think about a rubber band and how it stretches and we hope that the stress isn't too much. The more official definition is the ability to recover from, and adjust to, misfortune or change.
We like to put an emphasis on those two words in that definition, the change part, and the misfortune part, because we need resilience for both. We need resilience to cope with change, which may not be bad things, and we need resilience to cope with misfortune, which is clearly hardship.
All of us need resilience, because all of us, while we may not have misfortune, we will definitely have change. We all need the skills of resilience to be able to bounce back.
A contemporary researcher by the name of Ann Masten talks about resilience in terms of Ordinary Magic. Resilience is in the small things in our lives. It's not big, extraordinary things. It's ordinary things like a grown-up showing up consistently at the same time every day for you. It's those things that can contribute to our sense of resilience.
The truth is, we might not be able to get rid of all the risk factors in our lives. We see extraordinary examples of people who have had risk factors in their lives and have been able to achieve amazing things. That's the result of protective factors.
Put simply, protective factors are characteristics, events, and processes that buffer risk.
An environmental protective factor can be high-quality and trauma-sensitive early care and education.
Others are combating racism with culturally-responsive curriculums in our schools and ensuring that we have diverse representation in our staff and our decision making bodies.
We can look at family protection. Even in families where it seems like there's a ton of risk, there's always some strengths. If you shine a light on them, they'll grow. We want to always be looking at the budding or the emerging protective factors and grow them.
You can be born with some traits that are going to help you be more resilient. You can be born with flexibility or with an easy to warm temperament. But you can also learn some of these things early on in your life. We know that these early traits that get nurtured and supported are the ones that stay with us. So we want to do this resilience, or protective factor building, while the brain is developing.
We want to see kids who want to try new things. We want to see curiosity. We want to see a desire to solve a problem. When the block tower falls over, we want them to want to build it again. We want to see persistence. We want them to have a love of learning. We want them to be able to start play
So all of those behaviors are things that we're looking for. And if we're not seeing them. That's a good indicator that initiative is something we need to zero in on.
When I think about building initiative, it's in every single part of our day. Think about the kiddo who comes out of the bathroom with their pants unzipped and they wobble over to you and expect you to zip them. Instead of just (because I have 15 other kids and I'm busy) zipping them up and sending them on their way, I'm going to say, “Oh, how can we figure this out?” I'm going to take that extra 30 seconds to a minute to help you figure out how you're going to do that yourself. Initiative in a classroom is about not fixing everything for kids and about looking at all of the challenges that we face as opportunities for learning.
Initiative and the concept of scaffolding go hand in hand. We want kids to develop confidence and mastery of things. And if they can't do it, we have to scaffold for them until they can. We constantly want to be thinking about, if you're not willing to do a puzzle, you're afraid of it, you don't have confidence in yourself that you can do it. How am I going to scaffold puzzles, so that you start to grow some confidence? That may be starting with gigantic puzzle pieces that are really doable and then building your successes, with lots of care and reinforcement and attention to those things.