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September 2013 | Volume 71 | Number 1
Resilience and Learning
Think of resilience as a balance between risks and protective factors. As long as the balance is manageable, people can usually cope. However, for some children, especially those experiencing homelessness, the risks can be overwhelming and the protective factors few and far between.
A recent publication from the National Center for Homeless Education looks at what the research has to say about this tenuous balance. Here are some insights:
Authored by Jan Moore from the National Center for Homeless Education, Resilience and At-Risk Children and Youth is available at http://ftp.serve.org/nche/downloads/resilience.pdf.
In Saskatchewan, Canada, five schools have invited several mothers and their babies to visit classrooms in an effort to reduce violence and aggression in children. As students develop a connection with the babies, they learn about empathy, attachment, and parenting skills.
"I know people would like to call it an antibullying program," explained the program's local director, "but this program puts together pieces that contribute to a less aggressive society."
Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges by Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
In this book, two psychiatrists with backgrounds in neuroscience address the question, What enables some individuals to bounce back from adversity? The authors draw on their research, including extensive interviews with former U.S. prisoners of war in Vietnam; U.S. Special Forces members; and resilient civilians who have experienced severe trauma but who have gone on to lead productive and accomplished lives.
The authors identify 10 roots of resilience: realistic optimism, facing fear, a moral compass, religion and spirituality, social support, resilient role models, physical fitness, brain fitness, cognitive and emotional flexibility, and meaning and purpose. For each of these factors, the authors provide stories, a discussion of the neuroscience involved, and practical ways for individuals to strengthen that factor within themselves.
"We know of no better way to learn about tried-and-true methods for becoming more resilient than to listen to, be inspired by, and follow the advice of resilient people who have already 'been there.'" (pp. 13–14)
Why should we teach resilience? Because kids know adversity.
The percentage of U.S. adults surveyed who experienced at least one of eight "adverse childhood experiences." Of these,
percent had a substance abuser in their household when growing up.
percent experienced parental separation or divorce.
percent witnessed domestic violence as a child.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Adverse childhood experiences reported by adults, five states, 2009. Atlanta, GA: Author. The CDC surveyed 29,212 adults in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington.
For a list of sources of free kid-tested activities that teach social-emotional skills (suited to different grade levels and some to children with disabilities), visit the "Sample SEL Activities" page of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning's website.
One rich site on the list is WINGS for Kids, an after-school program that builds elementary students' social-emotional competencies through fun activities and by clustering children into small "nests." Here you can download a "DIY Social Emotional Learning Kit" that shows teachers and youth leaders how to incorporate these activities into their school—or after-school—time; a series of anti-bullying lessons; and more. Go to www.youtube.com/wingsforkids to see video clips of kids building their grit through social and emotional learning activities.
"How can a 2nd grader come to believe that all her classmates are superior and that she's utterly inadequate as a learner?"
—Mark D. Jacobson, p. 40
Copyright © 2013 by ASCD
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