Cultivating Resilient Communities in a Time of Crisis

April 3, 2020

The potential in our experience of collective trauma is collective healing. What is possible now? For our schools, our communities, our relationships? For ourselves? Can we fill our resilience tanks until they are overflowing? Until they spill into the reserves of those who are struggling?

CULTIVATING RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

On April 1, I started delivering a six-week-long blended learning project with a large school district on cultivating resilient communities in a time of crisis–while holding steadfast to a commitment to racial equity and social justice. I know, that’s a mouthful – and it’s energizing me in a way that I needed. My resilience reserves were getting low, but then I started this big project and I’m feeling reconnected to my purpose and my reason for being alive, and I’m feeling hopeful and helpful and engaged–and my resilience reserves are filling.

I met with the teachers of this district (all 4000 were invited to the Zoom meeting but fortunately not all 4000 showed up!). One question many of them asked was about how they could cultivate the resilience of their students: how to use the concepts in Onward with their kindergarteners? Second graders? Seventh graders? And what were the top three resilience-building strategies I could suggest?

THREE SUGGESTIONS

Here’s what I said:

  1. Build your own resilience. If you want to build the resilience of others, you MUST be simultaneously engaged in building your own. In part because while you consciously build your own, you’ll be metacognitive about that process–you’ll think about the experience and how to translate it to kids. And: all of us have been tested and will continue to be tested by this new reality, and we all need to regularly boost our resilience. We are running a marathon, not a sprint, and we’ll need a whole lot of emotional strength to endure the next 3, 12, and 18 months.
  2. Anchor in self-knowledge. Knowing yourself is a key habit of resilient people. Reconnect with what you love doing, what fuels you, what feeds your spirit, what energizes you. Do those things. Remember why you’re here–why you’re alive, what you hope to do with your life. Remember what you do well, what you’re deeply interested in. Second graders and kindergarteners can do this. What are you learning about yourself in this time? How is that knowledge and awareness helping you attend to your needs in these days?
  3. Recognize and embrace emotions: Resilient people are aware of, accept, and embrace their emotions. We have language to describe emotions and can name them when they show up (on this page you’ll find the resource called, the Core Emotions, which is really helpful). Resilient people get curious when emotions show up. We understand that they are messengers that want to share information so that we can have better self-understanding. Whether we’re trying to build our own resilience or that of others, it’s extremely valuable to spend time understanding and exploring our emotions. And perhaps most important: that we recognize that our emotions are worthy and a portal to our own power. And: When we build understanding of emotions in community, we strengthen the overall emotional intelligence and resilience of our community. Teach your students about their emotions, and teach them to embrace those emotions–that will build their resilience.

More than ever, we need to be in communication with each other, in community and in communication. We’re facing unparalleled challenges and unimaginable opportunities. Let’s explore those together, while we also embrace all of the complicated and confusing emotions that arise.

Onward.

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