Thoughts on resilience and being a resilient teacher

Teaching children is one of the greatest and most rewarding career choices one can do.    You wake up every morning, you have a bunch of eager faces ready to greet you in a classroom which you can make your own.  It is one of the most variable, exciting and flexible jobs around and the teacher has the autonomy to make it just that.  No need for repetitive chores and duties!  Just a chance each and every day to inspire, engage and connect with learners with an abundance of skills, dreams and ideas they are hanging out to explore.

Adulthood is filled with a range of stresses and responsibilities.  Things get sprung on us all time.  Is a child’s life really stress free? Children today have numerous pressures and setbacks as we all do.  Think about the pressure of the Friday spelling tests, standing up in an assembly to recite a poem, encountering bullies in the playground, falling out of a tree and breaking a limb.

As the one of the pivotal adults in a child’s life how do you as a teacher demonstrate you can face unfamiliar situations, overcome day to day problems and look for positive solutions?

Do you ask Why?  Or How? of yourself or others when confronted with a problem?

What type of response would your expect from a ‘Why’ question?  Usually, it follows along the lines of an excuse or a reason and it offers no sense of improvement or focus next time the situation arises.

Teacher: Why didn’t you bring your homework in today?

Child: Because I left it on the table.  I forgot it.

By simply asking a ‘How’ question you may invite the child to think about what they could do differently next time and put a measure in place to assist them to take responsibility next time.

Teacher:  How can you make yourself remember next week?

Child:  I could pack my bag the night before because we are always rushed in the mornings.

There are numerous strategies teachers employ to build and cultivate resilient children.  Most importantly the children learn so much through observation. Think of a time your class may have gotten over excited, maybe even a bit unruly.  You cannot leap in and say “control your behaviour”, while you are flipping out yourself!  Teaching is no doubt a learning journey for all and as the children will and do ‘learn from their mistakes’ so should a teacher.  It’s not hard to say ‘”I handled that really badly guys,” and discuss what could be done in the future.

Teachers that make the big decision to teach abroad and experience schools and life in other settings are most certainly pushing their boundaries.  Taking professional and personal risks. This decision alone is a true example of a teacher requiring resilience.  Do you have the resilience to survive and thrive in a new country, new school, and new life?   It is guaranteed that as with children you will encounter a range of stressors, problems and responsibilities that might seem too big to overcome.

Do you ask yourself…

Why am I doing this?  Or How can I work this out?

With the profession comes a huge amount of responsibility and integrity.    Think about your part in being a professional that acts with integrity and takes the responsibility of developing resilience in others by demonstrating resilience in oneself.


Carly Liddell-Lum is a New Zealand trained Primary teacher who taught in London for four years during her 15 year teaching career.  She is now a Director of Point to Point Education Recruitment Agency and assists schools in the UK with the important job of hiring high calibre teaching staff from Australia, New Zealand and Canada.