Editor’s note: A post on this topic was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated with a note from the author, Principal Hugh McDermott:
The current COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on each of us in some way. During this time, I have had first-hand knowledge as to how students and parents have demonstrated their resilience through unprecedented challenges. Disruptions to everyday life such as work, school, athletics, and other extracurricular activities have forced many of our students to return and remain at home. Parents and other responsible adults within households have had to become test proctors overnight and many have witnessed the unique struggles students face in their everyday course learnings. Through this, students have shown how they are able to adapt and overcome barriers to learning. Over much of this past year, students and families have had to approach schoolwork in many different and new ways that have stretched persistence and re-imagined resilience. As I reflect on the current obstacles that many of us have been facing, a previous piece I wrote in April 2016 on the topic of resilience came to mind. As now, more than ever, we have seen the importance of resilience and how it continues to resonate within our communities.
We hope everyone remains safe and healthy during this unique time and that we are able to see an end soon to the disruptions brought on by this pandemic.
As a former English teacher, there are some words I just love—like “resilience.” What is resilience, really? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” I love this meaning and what it stands for, and it’s very easy for me to recall example after example of resilience throughout my career.
As a principal, I have witnessed many students demonstrate resilience. For example, with students who struggled to pass their courses, their displays of resilience were often admirable. Many of these students knew they were struggling in their classes—in fact, some had been struggling academically for years! Yet they persisted and saw their courses through to a successful completion and ultimately earned their high school diploma.
Sometimes as a teacher, counselor, or principal, we would discover more about these students from a context outside of the school setting. It was then we better understood the word resilience! Many times, these students came from very difficult personal situations—a broken household, abuse, or low-income families. Even though they were dealing with these troubles, many students did not have an attendance problem. They liked being at school, and once we figured out together how they could be successful, nothing stopped them from overcoming obstacles.
I think resilience springs eternal and internal within each of us. Everyone exhibits some degree of resilience throughout their lives, but how we nurture it makes us all different. Many students who struggle on a daily basis with life circumstances display resilience, but during difficult times, it must seem like it’s nearly extinguished. Others guard and protect their resilience because they feel it is all they have. No matter the situation, your resilience will pay off if you work hard enough.
As educators, we carry a responsibility of inspiring hope within all our students. Students have their hopes and dreams, whatever they are, and it is our job to encourage them, support them, and motivate them into believing anything is possible.
What examples of resilience have you witnessed or what have you overcome?