We've had the first two days of teachers-only school; it's very strange to have FOUR days before students come on Thursday. But also kind of nice, because we're all there at the same time. Normally, people come in on their own timetables to work in classrooms, so it's a crapshoot who you're going to see, and then we have one day before kids for RAH RAH GET PUMPED FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR YEAH!
Part of these additional days is training and a district initiative to recognize and offer strategies for the collective trauma everyone's experienced, teachers and kids and parents alike. There's been some presentations focused on our students and families, but there's a program my district is embracing called "Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators." It's based on a book by Elena Aguilar, and it is supposed to help us not burn out.
A friend of mine was a little put off that now we are supposed to get trained in how to deal with all of our new roles and vicarious trauma and the difficulty of 21st century pandemic teaching in a world of inequity, rather than programs to FIX THE ROOT PROBLEM. Touche. But then, part of the presentation introducing Onward explained that part of the strategies it offers is to look at what you can control, which is your reaction and habits to all the difficult pieces.
Interesting. Tell me more.
The definition of resilience that was presented first was this:
A way of being that allows us to bounce back quickly from adversity.
Hmmm. I immediately drew a box around quickly and wrote a tiny "ew" next to it in my notebook. The problem I have with "quickly" is that it's so subjective. It reminded me of how, if you've experienced a loss (of a person, of a dream, of a life you thought you'd have), society wants you to just get over it. MOVE ON.
But when I talked to Bryce about it, he agreed with quickly, at least from the perspective of not getting stuck. That moving forward from adversity can't take forever, or else you're not really bouncing back. But what counts as quickly can be different in the situation -- maybe for one it's a month, maybe for another it's years.
The other piece I struggled with was the phrase bounce back. I feel like that also has a get over it undertone, because it assumes that you can a) bounce, which is a sort of jolly little verb, and b) get back to where you were before. In my experience, grief, trauma, and adversity change you -- you simply cannot be the same person you were before. You can't just bounce back up and be like, "Gosh that was terrible, but I'm all good now! Just the same as I was before!" I prefer the idea of bending, of returning to a kind of normal but knowing that there's some scar tissue there. I don't think this is negative, because scars remind you of the trauma but also how you've overcome it, and maybe even what you've learned. I have a big scar on my left knee from surgery to repair a dislocation with grinding damage (ew) that I sustained in high school while jumping for joy over the sight of beautiful spring pansies. When I see it, I know that I can survive the pain and weakness that came with recovery, but I also unfortunately am less exuberant in my jumps for joy.
Later in the day there was another presentation about Trauma-Informed Care Post-Pandemic. I very much appreciated that the presenter admitted that unfortunately we are not POST pandemic, that we are very much still in it. But what I liked about this presentation was that there was a different piece of resilience defined:
Resilience is a process that unfolds over time.
Oooooh, thumbs up on that one. I wrote it in my notebook, upside down and wonky since it was dark in the auditorium. First, the acknowledgement that it is a process. That it's not something cut and dry that you either have or don't. A process can be developed. And, the unfolding over time: it isn't a linear thing that is the same for every person and every situation.
Then I went to the Onward website, curious what that had to say about resilience:
With resilience, we not only rebound from challenges, but are stronger, kinder, and even more alive because of them. Resilience is about THRIVING, not just surviving. It's about learning from suffering so that we experience more joy, calm, and tranquility and more meaningful connections with others. Resilience allows us to experience the full spectrum of emotions and to move more quickly through uncomfortable emotions.
Winner winner chicken dinner! I love these thoughts on resilience, mainly because they echo so much of what we say about surviving and thriving after resolving without parenting, or going through infertility. It's not like you have to be "oh man, I'm so grateful for this shitty experience," but it's nice to be able to say, "I've learned from this and it has changed me, but I feel stronger for it, and have new connections that maybe I wouldn't have had otherwise." It is powerful to know that you have survived something difficult, that you have bent but not broken under the trauma. Maybe you bent nearly in half, but it's great to know that you can survive and thrive in spite of it.
So interesting that there are so many different takes on resilience. How do you define resilience for yourself?
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