Teacher Resilience and Collaboration | Steve Barkley
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Teacher Resilience and Teacher Collaboration

I recently facilitated an exploration of teacher resilience and its connections to teacher collaboration. Here are some of the elements I included that might be of value in your own exploration or in conversations you facilitate with your staff. This two- minute children’s video provides a quick understanding that resilience is not about not falling or getting knocked down, but that resilience is about getting back up.

It describes various zones we might find ourselves in when dealing with impacts from a crisis like COVID-19:

In the Fear Zone, we tend to tap into a set of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that create a perpetual negative cycle.

Entering the Learning Zone, we begin to learn life skills, positive thinking patterns, and coping strategies to address current and future stressors.

In the Growth Zone, the skills and strategies that we practiced in the Learning Zone become habits.

When in the Resilience Zone, the healthy habits that we developed are part of our character. In the Resilience Zone, we view the danger within a crisis and turn it into an opportunity to grow.

Being conscious of how one is processing a current situation is important in building resilience. Consciousness often grows from conversations. Look for opportunities to instigate conversations among leaders and staff and among colleagues. Build teacher collective efficacy for collective resilience.

The Australian Council for Educational Research’s, Teacher wellbeing during a pandemic: Surviving or thriving? reinforced collaboration for social capital:

While positive psychology-based interventions aim to cultivate positive patterns of thinking and feeling, there should also be a recognition of the need to support relationships within the broader school context, rather than focusing on individual-level change. Facilitating enhanced social capital in organizational cultures can lead to a collaborative and proactive approach to building relationships and community bonds. Creating conditions for wellbeing can move schools away from reactive ‘solutions’, to a place where teacher wellbeing becomes part of the fabric of a school, informing its strategic intention while supporting staff, students, and families.

Collaboration - Business ConceptDiane Coutu shares three characteristics of resilient people. She suggests that you can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three.

  •  a staunch acceptance of reality
  • a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful
  •  an uncanny ability to improvise

These three require combining the Stockdale paradox with The Power of Optimism. Stockdale, who was a prisoner during the Vietnam war, has described the need for facing the brutal reality in a situation while still believing.

‘‘You must never confuse faith in your victory at the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline necessary to face the most brutal facts of your present reality, whatever they may be.”

Allan Loy McGuiness, author of The Power of Optimism listed 12 behaviors of an optimist, (explored in this podcast) which include that optimist are never surprised by trouble and they have an unlimited capacity for stretching.Leading With Teams Infographic

Margaret Wheatley’s work illustrates for me the value of collaboration in building resilience. Her guidance suggests that rich and diverse relationships, combined with a flow of information around a strong common vision create creativity. Taking action to experiment with creative possibilities leads to renewed input that drives continuous forward progress.

Collaboration is required to reach the rewards of real teamwork. Cooperation can be a starting point. Many educators have shared with me that the onset of quarantining led teachers who had previously pushed back on PLCs to be substantially more open and vulnerable to requesting and accepting “help” from colleagues on how best to proceed. Instructional coaches and teacher leaders along with administrators should look to build this cooperation into collaboration. I have used the analogy of working in franchises (cooperating)to being teams (collaborating). Greater detail regarding this analogy can be found here.

No matter what’s going on around us, if we truly believe that we’re in this together, and we work hard to be there for one another, we can make it through.


The resilience tree: TLC Virtual Resiliency, a company dedicated to providing virtual support and the development of resiliency and workplace wellness.

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