As you are looking to activate the process of resilience in your students, the most important thing you can do is enhance their network of support.
Social support involves the practical and emotional care that is given by the people in our lives. Put simply, there is nothing more important to us as human beings than our relationships. Think about how often people who share inspiring stories of transformation talk about a person or a group of people as being fundamental to their ability to overcome a loss or difficulty they experienced.
As children, part of their support network includes the people in a child’s home life. This includes family, friends, and neighbors. However, as teachers, you often spend even more time with a child than the people who are a part of their familial support network. You all went into teaching because you care about children. Research says that your ability to leverage this care to build safe and positive relationships with your students remains fundamentally important to their ability to cope and adapt to life’s challenges.
So, how do you do this? Believe it or not, things like making individual eye contact and saying “good morning” using a child’s name is enough to communicate to a child who is feeling lonely that she matters. Positive expressions such as a smile or a high-five tells a young person that you are happy to see him. Verbal expressions that acknowledge not just success, but more importantly, the process of hard work, reinforces children for their diligence when working on a task or project. Building individual relationships with your students can be transformational.
At the same time, you also have the opportunity to build a sense of community across your classroom. Connecting with you and other school personnel is important, but so is a child’s ability to build positive relationships with peers in the classroom. Things like facilitating opportunity for affirmations from one’s peers and setting a no-tolerance policy around bullying can create a sense of safety and trust that young people long for. Your ability to create a learning environment where the relationships between your students are able to flourish, is a gift that can last a lifetime.
I have been extremely fortunate within my combined 20 years in school to have known many educators who have helped guide and mentor me into the person I am today. Many of whom I can still name, and remember the impact they made through the relationships they forged with me. While it’s sometimes hard for me to fathom, as I was always a straight-A student, school did not come easy for me in my first few years of elementary classes which caused a lot of fear and anxiety.
I was below the curve for reading and math and my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Johnson, was the advocate I needed to ensure I got the education I deserved. I guarantee it was not easy to approach my parents with the news that their daughter needed help. I also can guarantee it was not easy for my parents to comprehend the situation. Fortunately for me, my parents agreed to get me the help I needed.
For the rest of the year, I received special tutoring for reading and math. Due to her advocacy on my behalf, I was able to go on an become a straight-A student, graduate high school 11thin my class, and receive multiple scholarships to attend Arizona State University where I went on to receive my Bachelors in Biomedical Engineering and Masters in Business Administration. While many teachers shaped my education and brought me to where I am today, Mrs. Johnson certainly helped me to reach my full potential at a young age. Had I continued to struggle with understanding concepts in school, I am absolutely sure I would not have been as successful.
I am beyond appreciative for Mrs. Johnson and the many others who helped to cultivate different skills and made me believe in my full potential, that somedays I had a hard time seeing. I fully believe without amazing teachers in this world (like the ones I have encountered), we wouldn’t have amazing people doing amazing things.
Job Title: Operations Leadership
Review this story from the Washington Post regarding how one teacher uses a painful experience from her childhood to create an environment of kindness in her classroom every year. Imagine the impact she is having and your potential to do the same.