Fostering Resilience: ALL Kids Have a Future

cc flickr photo by TMAB2003

I have been pondering educational matters…specifically, the challenges schools face in addressing the needs of ALL students and how this consideration should impact our efforts at positive school reform.  I firmly believe that we need to explore all successful/viable options for improving our schools with the understanding that a single type of educational model will not meet the needs of all students.  One of my greatest concerns, regarding conversations related to educational reform, is that we account for all kids – especially those who lack an educational advocate.

These are the kids who are on a path to failure, disillusionment and ultimately disengagement from education.  In current educational terminology, they would be referred to as “at-risk” students.  Many face significant distractions at home–poverty, abuse, familial dysfunction or indifference, crime, gangs, etc.  For others, low expectations and failure have become the norm–they feel beaten down and hopeless.  Our goal as educators should be to change their path, raise the expectation (and support) level and reengage them in the type of education that can only come from having hope of a future.

It is not a futile endeavor.  These kids are resilient.  Many are fighters who have been (or are going) through proverbial hells and survived.  They know what it means to overcome obstacles, but they may not be able to translate this strength to the challenges presented at school. I recently read an article entitled Resilience: It’s Academic, by Rob Gira, an Executive Vice President with AVID (written in Access: AVID’s Education Journal).  In the article, Mr. Gira stresses the importance of emphasizing student assets instead of deficits.  He writes that “viewing students from drug involved, dysfuctional, or low-income families as essentially at-risk can lead to sterotyping, tracking and lowered expectations.” This is something that Pedro Noguera refers to as Pobrecito Syndrome – the soft bigotry of low expectations.  These kids don’t need an overdose of sympathy, they do need an appropriate balance of empathy and expectations.

In his article, Rob Gira, talks about the importance of educators acknowledging key beliefs that are the source of their own resilience.

  • All individuals have the power to transform and change
  • Teachers and schools have the power to transform lives
  • Opportunities to contribute are necessary – kids need to be given responsibilities and have the opportunity for meaningful participation.

These beliefs are essential to our ability to enhance the inherent resilience our students possess.  It is there, it just takes effort to bring it out and help students apply it to challenges they face at school.

Above all, we need to foster a sense of hope for these students…a belief that they can be successful.  From experience (both successes and failures), I know that this is an extremely difficult task.  It takes commitment, patience, and perseverance, but no matter how frustrating, we owe these students our best effort.  As we discuss educational reform, lets remember this obligation and be certain we account for the educational future of all students.

“Kids who think they are going somewhere behave differently than kids who believe they are going nowhere.” ~Pedro Noguera



  1. Tia said:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

    I can’t agree with this post enough. As a child, I grew up in an abusive home, with alcholic parents who were living on social assistance. I’m sure there were people who didn’t have a whole lot of hope for my future (or the future of my twin brother). Well, here I am. I was the first (and only) person in my family to ever graduate from high school, let alone go to university to obtain two degrees!

    My resilience was made possible because of a number of factors, which I won’t go into here. One of the factors, not surprisingly, was my teachers. They made a difference for me. While they were not the only difference, they were in the top few, that’s for sure!

    Now, I ponder my past and my future, as I get ready to head back to school in a new school this fall. This school is an inner city school with many challenges. I think back on my past and I know that I will make a difference with the kids at my new school. I can and I will. I look forward to it!

    July 10, 2011
  2. Dany said:

    That’s more than senlsibe! That’s a great post!

    August 3, 2011

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