Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Complexity of Fostering Resiliency in Teacher Education

During a Master's presentation, a colleague (Nathanael Powell) pointed out that many students continue to not want to "struggle" or "learn through being uncomfortable" anymore.  The moment students are faced with tensions in their learning, they  no longer wantt to inquire or use problem solving skills to address the situation., hey just want the answer given to them. Some theorists have speculated that technology and its ability to provide instant gratification has encourage this process. While other theorists point at helicopter parenting-(in which parents hover and stop kids from experiencing and learning from failure) has also led to the inability of societal members and primarily our "Students" from learning to be resilient.

Resilience is one of those educational "buzz" words that describes a characteristic in which students when presented with failure can 'bounce back', learn and push forward in their goals.  Too be honest, I think there are many students that are resilient, maybe not in all aspects of the 7 C's (confidence, character,competence, contribution, coping, connection, control)  but are on their way to reaching a level which allows them to adapt to stress and adversity effectively.  What concerns me with the discussion of resiliency is that many teachers, parents, and other educational stakeholders do not have it themselves or those who do, do not model it.

In its professionalism, teaching is seen as an occupation that requires teachers to be perfect, smart and to never make mistakes. Teachers use to rarely admit that they were wrong, and many still don't. Vulnerabilities were never shown and many continue not to share personal triumphs and examples adversity and resilience. 
What becomes even more glaring is that Teacher education candidates are affected by resiliency in different ways:

a)  Because of the aforementioned ideas of why young societal members lack resiliency, many Teacher education candidates do not have skills in resiliency to be successful.  Some expect their mentor teachers to do everything for them, others become defensive when taking feedback, and some don't have the basic skills to survive the demands of a teaching day, far less a career.

b).  These teacher candidates perception of teaching being  squeaky clean, safe, and easy comes from the observation of Master educators who have had their fair share of adversity, but now are well oiled machines.  The vicious cycle of perpetuation leads to an unattainable idea of what perfection looks like.

c).  The third idea of resilience is the most alarming.  Many teachers remember their teaching experience and all the work, hardship and adversity they went through and expect their teacher candidates to be just as resilient as they were.  Though we do not state to our teacher candidates they have to be perfect and even though we know that they are a work in progress, we expect them to reach a level of perfection before we open the gate into the profession.  Those expectations at time can be so severe that some teacher-candidates quit, and we allude to their lack of resiliency as their failure.

d).  As a mentor teacher- finding that fine line or feeling that my student teacher is going through and finding that appropriate time to allow them to falter or that moment when stepping in would be more beneficial.  I know many will point out that being a good mentor is realizing these moments are difficult to define.

In the end, resiliency is an important characteristic that helps all individuals deal with those "That's Life" moments.  We as educators must not focus on resiliency and fostering it squarely within our students. We also have to look at growing and fostering resiliency in ourselves, future educators and adult societal members who have lost opportunities to experience these situations as children.  Our children are our future, but their role models are present, and if we presently do not model this integral characteristic, how do we expect them to learn, analyze, apply and synthesize this in their lives.  Modelling perfection and ease is not the purpose.  Share your trials and tribulations, success and failures, the messy, the complex and the misfortunes. In these vulnerable moments, our students will not just learn, but grow.

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