Most people define resilience as “the ability to bounce back after set backs”. Popular wisdom on the subject may even define resilience as the ability to pull an all-nighter for work and still show up to teach with a smile on your face the next morning. In our cultural cult of overwork and productivity, resilience has been twisted and confused. In building teacher resilience, we have to unlearn some of these messages and redefine the term.
So I define resilience differently…
Resilience is knowing how and choosing to cultivate the personal resources needed to meet the demands of your life.
Let’s break it down…
Knowing how AND choosing to…
It’s not enough to just know how to cultivate your personal resources (time and energy). You must also choose to do so, and commit to honoring your life through your choices. This is a daily, weekly, and ongoing process of understanding that your choices (big and small) impact your life, and then making choices that serve and honor you. It’s one of the most basic and important ways you love yourself.
If all I have to do is choose it, then why is it so hard?!
Many of us have never been taught that it is our responsibility to manage our own time and energy. Thus, we essentially let the expectations of others rule our lives. And we believe that we don’t have control or agency – let alone the responsibility – to choose how we spend our time and energy.
For example, as teachers, we are rewarded for going beyond an appropriate work day. We are told that we are “dedicated”, “passionate” and “committed” when we put in extra hours.
Once – buying into this myth – I complained to a coworker that I was “sooo tired” because I had been up late working on grading/planning/whatever I was doing. The coworker looked me straight in the face and said “Well, that was stupid.”
After I soothed my broken ego – I realized my coworker’s wisdom… it’s up to ME to be rested enough for school. It’s up to ME to decide when to do my work. It’s up to ME to take care of myself. (Damn)
I had to wake up from that toxic belief system, and realize that my life and my happiness is my responsibility.
After that – I had to learn HOW to take responsibility for my energy and time. I had to experiment for a while and even get support with learning how to manage my time and energy.
And then I had to CHOOSE how I wanted to spend my time and energy – even when it went against some of my other values and desires (like my desire to have everything laminated, perfect, color coded, and organized as an example!)
Did you get that process?
Step 1: Wake up from the belief system that rewards me for overworking, stressing, and blaming school or others from my lack of happiness.
Step 2: Learn how to manage my time and energy based on my own happiness.
Step 3: Make the choice over and over again to honor myself through seemingly small decisions.
…cultivate the personal resources needed…
Think about what makes you resilient… Is it your resume? Is it your knowledge? Your expertise? Tenure?
Likely, what came to mind was one of these things: a positive attitude, being well-rested, staying confident in yourself, finding creative solutions to problems, keeping a larger perspective… etc.
Those are the things that REALLY make you resilient. And all of those things are impacted by your personal resources. If you feel depleted, you can’t keep a good perspective, think positively, problem solve, make good decisions, or stay confident.
So building teacher resilience really comes down to managing our personal reserves – our energy.
Resilience is about managing your energy in an intentional way so that you have the internal resources needed for whatever life is asking of you in the moment! Sometimes life asks more of you…you need more “fuel” in your tank. Sometimes – like on summer break – life asks less so you can get by with less. Your ability to be resilient depends on your ability to assess what energy life is requiring of you, and choosing to meet (or exceed) that demand.
Your energy is made up of five components…
- Physical energy
- Emotional energy
- Cognitive energy
- Spiritual energy
- and Relational energy
Cultivating your energy means that you understand how to recharge on each of these levels. Learn more about managing all five energy levels here.
Your resilience as a teacher depends on you knowing how and choosing to cultivate your personal resources (aka energy) to meet the demands of your life.
Let’s look at that last bit in more depth…
…to meet the demands of your life.
Just like any resource, you cannot use more energy than you replenish. In fact, sometimes it’s helpful to think of energy like money in your bank account or fuel in the gas tank of your car. You can’t use more fuel than is in your car. You just stall out.. you can’t move further. Energy works the same way.
- Do you frequently feel like you have enough life energy to handle your life?
- How full is your life energy gas tank right now?
- How frequently do you stop to refuel?
- What are your fuel sources? (check out this article for some ideas)
- How low do you let your tank get before refueling?
- What do you do when you are “stalled out” (aka burned out)?
Now let’s go deeper…
- How much “fuel” (energy) does your life require right now?
- How much energy does life require during the school year?
- How much energy does life require at its hardest?
- How much energy does life require to be resilient by your own definition?
Building teacher resilience
Envision what life would look like if you had all the energy you needed (and maybe even MORE!) to handle all that’s on your plate right now…
That’s thriving life.
And that’s what I want for you.
What’s your next step?