Building a Culture of Resiliency

Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind. –Bruce Lee

Today is International Day at my school. It is a massive undertaking, involving over 1200 people. There are parents, students, and visitors enjoying a wide variety of food, entertainment, and information. The whole world is at our school today, and it is awesome.

Awesome and chaotic.

As happens when you run a day like this:

  • “Normal” is disrupted.
  • The schedule doesn’t run as planned.
  • Technology doesn’t work, or people aren’t where they are supposed to be.
  • Food runs out.
  • The weather isn’t cooperating.

That said, I feel sorry for the people among us today who are allowing the controlled chaos to overshadow the awesome.

Why? Because our International Day event is just like every other day, only on a larger scale: Things go well, and things go wrong. It’s life.

To be able to enjoy it, you have to be flexible. And resilient.

A few years ago, my husband heard Michael Thompson of Raising Cain speak about boy learners. He took away from that presentation a mantra, which has become our personal and professional goal as a family: Flexible resilience.

From other researchers and authors, we have also learned the importance of finding your “flow”, of having a “growth mindset”, getting “grit”, and to develop “perseverance”. There doesn’t seem to be much debate that what ultimately counts is how you handle (and how your mind views) the way the world works.

Leaping out from the individual and into the collective, though, you can quickly see why developing a culture of flexible resiliency is especially important for schools. Schools are often about order, routine, and predictability. We run tight ships, schedule almost everything and have clear starts and stops, beginnings and ends. When things don’t go as planned, it is in many of our teacher-natures to find it upsetting.

For our international schools, flexible resiliency is even more important. Besides the fact that many of us are living in unique (and sometimes challenging) places, we also have a diverse population which can cause confusion and miscommunication- even in the best of times.

It isn’t enough for us to ask our students or our parents to have growth mindsets or to go with the flow. Teachers and administrators have to adopt the same stance. It is flexible resiliency, which allows us to not just survive the changes that occur in our schools (building projects, enrollment/admission changes, teacher and administrative turnover) but to thrive, as a result.

As with most things, school leaders should not only expect flexible resiliency, but they must also build it. To help me do just that, here are some questions I’ve been considering and ideas I hope to implement.

  1. How can we recognize and celebrate flexibility in adults both within and outside of the building?
  2. I need to model a growth mindset when I am unsuccessful.
  3. How can I  provide opportunities for others to celebrate their “oops-es”.
  4. How might we imbed resiliency “training” into our social/emotional program for students.

About Jen Munnerlyn

Jen Munnerlyn is the Elementary Principal at the American School of Warsaw. Her international experience began back in 1980 when her parents first started teaching overseas. Jen blogs about her own experiences as a Third Culture Kid, the adventures of being the mother of a TCK, and about elementary education in an international school setting. Her picture book The Adventure Begins, about the first day at an international school, is a favorite among adults and students abroad.
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One Response to Building a Culture of Resiliency

  1. Cheryn says:

    Well written and so true especially in international schools.

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