Saturday, March 14, 2015

Resilience: The Key to Clearing the Hurdles in Life

" The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but  rising every time we fall."
   ~ Nelson Mandela~

Recently there was a viewing of the game known as the " The Miracle on Ice" to celebrate an epic and historic event that took place thirty-five years ago in Lake Placid, New York. This event featured a group of spirited college athletes from various schools throughout the United States defeating the Soviet Union in a Medal Round Olympic hockey game at the 1980 Winter Olympics.  This improbable upset remains today the pinnacle of amateur sports accomplishments in the United States.  The Soviets were widely regarded as the best hockey team in the world, bar none.  Just a week prior, the Soviets had beaten this same team of amateurs by a lopsided score of 10-3.  Our boys were clearly outmatched.  How does one begin to explain the amazing turn of events? How did this collection of college athletes beat the best team in the world on a stage that had been previously dominated by the Soviets?  The answer ..... Resilience.  This spirit that lives deep within the human soul. A spirit which allows us to overcome even the most insurmountable of obstacles.

Collectively they found something within them that allowed them to put the previous outcome aside and move forward. They found a reason to believe that the impossible was possible. They found a reason to believe that they could achieve something that everyone outside of their team believed impossible. In the games leading up to the game with the Soviets and then with the subsequent winning of the gold medal game, this team would teach us lessons of resilience that those of us fortunate to bear witness would not soon forget.

Throughout the course of our lives we are forced to confront situations as children and then adults that are adverse or uncomfortable.  Perhaps we struggle in the classroom, or the athletic arena or perhaps our personal life provides its own set of challenges.  We seek guidance and support from mentors. We seek their assistance and together we identify potential solutions. Furthermore we assess the situations that create the adversity, utilize resources that are available and eventually move forward. Our resilience makes this possible. Success and failure are temporary conditions. Our resilience must be part of our permanent condition or adaptation becomes impossible.

Our responsibility as adult learners is to use our own experiences with resilience and mentor our children as they attempt to come to terms with their own struggles or even failures.

As educators it is incumbent upon us to reinforce with our students the idea that assessments are performance measurements. They are a means of assisting us in how to best approach our instructional planning in order to provide the optimum learning experiences for them. They will result in success at times and result in productive struggles at others.  Ultimately they will always reveal something about student learning.  Assessment outcomes will never define the learner as a success or failure. If we can successfully impart this line of thinking upon our students, then we can create resilience within them. Then perhaps they will be willing to take risks, and confront challenges entusiastically, while possessing a forward thinking mindset regardless of potential outcomes.  If we can help our students to develop resilience than they can eventually help develop it within others, thus creating a community of resilient learners.

Teaching our children to assess adversity is the first step in helping them achieve resilience. Once they complete their assessment then they can proceed to gather resources, human or otherwise. After gathering and utilizing the resources in an effective fashion then the hope is that they can move forward toward solutions and eventually beyond the adversity. Once resilience is achieved initially, hopefully they can continue to use a formula that allows them to consistently overcome the challenges that confront them. One thing is for sure, life will provide the hurdles, clearing them requires resilience.

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