Friday, 5 June 2015

The R word – Resilience!

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a seminar facilitated by Anne Knock from the Sydney Centre for Innovation and Learning at Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney. Anne took us through the school’s journey and metamorphosis, over a number of years, from a small 20 century school into a large 21 century school with strong leaders, confident teachers and innovative approaches – all indicators of a powerful and effective school (OECD report, Schools for 21 C Learners, http://time.com/3892044/the-science-of-bouncing-back/).

Anne began her presentation describing her walk around Christchurch City viewing both the destruction and renewal of buildings. She reflected on a Time magazine article, Bounce Back that she had read the previous day. The article discussed research on the reasons why some people rebound so well from setbacks. The study found that factors like a tight-knit community, a stable role model and a strong belief in their ability to solve problems helped children’ success. They stated that facing the things that scare you relaxes the fear circuitry, making the good first step in building resilience.

As we in Canterbury well know, we will all face one or more major traumatic stressors in our life times but the countless smaller stresses also take a toll. Helping our staff and students to face their fears and anxieties is important and a part of helping them to grow and deal effectively with pressure and challenges. Research shows, resilient brains seem to shut off the stress response and return to baseline quickly. We all seem to know those people who bounce back from difficult experiences quickly and we also know those who don’t fare quite so well. Personally, I found the articles expert tips for resilience both helpful and timely – see below:

1.     Develop a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake
2.     Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened
3.     Try to maintain a positive outlook
4.     Take cues from someone who is especially resilient
5.     Don't run from things that scare you: face them
6.     Be quick to reach out for support when things go haywire
7.     Learn new things as often as you can
8.     Find an exercise regimen you will stick to
9.     Don't beat yourself up or dwell on the past
10.  Recognise what makes you uniquely strong - and own it


As leaders we spend a large proportion of our school day dealing with a myriad of issues often to do with relationships and “people problems”. We are not trained counsellors or mediators and instead use our life experiences and moral fibre to help sort situations and do our very best to solve or find acceptable solutions to “people problems”. We continually strive to build a healthy, positive school culture as we know interpersonal relationships matter.

As Anne Knock so wisely stated: “leadership is not command and control, it is climate control”.  Maintaining a positive outlook can be challenging when dealing with a myriad of “people problems” but numbers 6, 8, 9, and 10 above certainly help me grow resilience to bounce back.


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