Resilience Runs Deep
On a recent visit to inner-city Chicago, it was my pleasure to meet a shining star teacher, Ms. Rachel Walker. You see, Ms. Walker was not just teaching middle school math – she was teaching resilience.
Upon my entry to the room, the students were clear in their intention to know if I was friend or foe. Ms. Walker immediately noticed her students’ need to be reassured and provided safety through positive, refocusing words. She shared words like, ‘opportunity to show how smart you are’ and ‘I know you can’.
And so many of Ms. Walker’s students did just that – they began solving their math warm-up. As I moved through the room to observe the students’ work, it was evident that they were still uncertain as to my intentions and some were literally hiding their work from my line of view. Ms. Walker, once again, read her class and offered a secondary layer of reassurance about solving in any way that made sense to them.
And then, the window of opportunity cracked open. A young man slid his hand away just a bit and a stop-on visual strategy surfaced.
His neighboring seatmate heard our conversation about successful solving through whatever makes the most sense to our own brain – and his hand slid away – showing the use of known facts to make 40. This is a strategy I would have never considered as well. When I shared that I was impressed, smiles spread across faces and more smart strategies were shared by young people.
I was reminded of some of life’s most fundamental needs in Ms. Walker’s class that day. Whether in inner-city Chicago or in a farming community in Michigan, we all want to know we are safe. We all want to know that our best thinking is valued by others. We all value the acceptance that a smile can provide – all through the resilience and reassurance modeled by an intuitive classroom teacher, Ms. Walker.
Written by Deb Sweebe