In these top tips, Cornelia Lucey, psychologist and leadership consultant presents some possible approaches to building resilience for teachers and educationalists and shares ways they can be applied to build resilience.
It is important to note that these are only some tips to help you cope with everyday challenges at work and beyond. It is advisable to seek out professional help if you need support with your mental health. Education Support, a charity dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of education staff, also provide many helpful resources.
What’s the idea?
Resilience is a foundation stone for early career teachers wanting to perform at their best and role model resilient behaviours to students. The need for this resilience extends into further roles in the education system, including leadership roles.
What does it mean?
Resilience is not about being ‘tough’ on a permanent basis – it is generally regarded as emotional flexibility, the ability to stretch under pressure and bounce back after a challenging experience. As such, resilience helps us to maintain our wellbeing in difficult circumstances. Schools and classrooms can be demanding environments, partly because not every student is in the classroom ready to learn and partly because successful teaching and learning require high levels of cognitive, social and emotional investment. Resilience can help teachers respond effectively to this and the challenges they may encounter.
Likewise, resilience is critical for leadership roles. Resilience is more than an individual trait. It is a capacity that arises through interactions between people within organisations. A key role of school leaders is to foster the individual and collective capacity-building of resilience. Having the tools and support to build their own resilience could help teachers and leaders to sustain their energy and generate better thinking to innovate and problem solve (Zwart, Korthagen & Attema-Noordewier, 2014).
So, setting the habits and behaviours of resilience is essential as you develop in your early years of teaching, not only for your role as a classroom teacher, but throughout your career.
What are the implications for teachers?
As an early career teacher you may find that your energy levels deplete as the term goes on. This is why it helps to pay attention to your own resilience on a daily and weekly basis. The following steps may help:
- Consider one recovery-based activity that you do for yourself each week that you enjoy and that you would like to maintain in your working week as your career develops. This could be a dance class, some quality family time or anything that makes you feel absorbed and contented beyond day-to-day work.
- Think about when you will do this (day, time) and how you can be held accountable to yourself and others to support this. For example, you could call on a parent, friend, colleague or supervisor, letting them know your plan for the year.
Want to know more?
Day C (2012) Resilient leaders, resilient schools (Opinion piece, National College for School Leadership)
Gu Q & Day C (2007) Teachers resilience: A necessary condition for effectiveness. Teaching and Teacher Education 23(8): 1302-1316. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2006.06.006
Zwart RC, Korthagen FAJ, & Attema-Noordewier S (2014) A strength-based approach to teacher professional development. Professional Development in Education 41(3), 579–596. https://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2014.919341