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Student Services

Schoolwide Methods for

Fostering Resiliency
Support from caring adults is key to students
success in the face of adversity.

By Virginia Smith Harvey

harles Jones, the principal of Characteristics of Resiliency adults who convey that they care by men-
an inner-city middle school, is We usually think of adversity, such toring, listening nonjudgmentally, help-
careful to develop a supportive as poverty and highly dysfunctional ing, and being fair. Peer relationships are
school environment for his teachers and families, as detrimental. This is certainly also important: positive social relation-
students and thereby foster resiliency often true, but students can overcome ships can promote learning and positive
they all need for success. He greets the adversity and in some circumstances feelings toward school and academics,
students every morning as they enter can actually use adversity as a spring- and negative social relationships can have
school, meets weekly with each teaching board to growth and success (Linley & the opposite effect. Finally, adolescents
team, and even has his own homeroom Joseph, 2004). This ability to personally resilience is fostered when their teachers,
where he spends 30 minutes every week or professionally succeed despite ad- school administrators, and parents have
listening to students. His approach pays versity stems from resilience, or coping positive relationships with one another.
off, for he knows his teachers and stu- effectively with difficulties that might Positive attitudes that promote re-
dents well enough that he can encourage otherwise lead to anxiety, depression, siliency include encouraging oneself to
them as individuals. Recently, a student withdrawal, physical symptoms, or poor try, being determined to persevere until
from a very impoverished and unstable achievement. Considerable research success is attained, applying a problem-
family came back to visit. Now a high has revealed that resilience results from solving approach to difficult situations,
school junior, she has excellent grades, positive social relationships, positive atti- and fostering feelings of hardiness.
was elected president of her student tudes and emotions, the ability to control Resilient students who have positive at-
council, and is planning to attend col- ones own behavior, and feelings of com- titudes believe that when they try, they
lege. When Jones asked her what had petence (Doll, Zucker, & Brehm, 2004). will succeed. Positive emotions, such as
made the difference, she answered, You Positive social relationships, particu- love and gratitude, increase resiliency
told us that we could become anything larly with multiple friends, relatives, and because they serve as a buffer against
we decided. So I decided to do as you said neighbors, create resiliency. Resilient ad- depression and other negative reactions.
and shine like a star. olescents have positive relationships with Resilient people recognize and express
all emotions, even negative ones, but do
so appropriately.
Virginia Smith Harvey ( is the director of the School
Individuals who are resilient control
Psychology Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the coauthor, with L.
their own behavior and are considerate
A. Chickie-Wolfe, of Fostering Independent Learning: Practical Strategies to Promote
of themselves and others. They self-regu-
Student Success (forthcoming, Guilford Press) and of Effective Supervision in School
late performance by preparing ahead and
Psychology with J. A. Struzziero (2000, National Association of School Psychologists).
appraising their success after complet-
ing tasks. Finally, resilient individuals
Student Services is produced in collaboration with the National Association of School
perceive themselves as competent in aca-
Psychologists (NASP). Articles and related handouts can be downloaded from www.naspcenter
demics, athletics, the arts, or other areas
because of past successes.

10 PL January 2007
Fostering Resiliency interaction with adults and tend to with respect and courtesy. Positive
Supporting positive relationships anticipate that future interaction with peer relationships are fostered through
among students and adults. To develop adults will be negative. To reverse this an emphasis on learning rather than
resilience, adolescents need to be cared pattern, adults must deliberately, repeat- competition. This emphasis can be sup-
for and supported by adults in school, at edly, and genuinely communicate positive ported by well-designed and interesting
home, and in the community. Teacher- regard. To support positive relationships, cooperative learning projects in which
student relationships often reflect ad- it is important that teachers praise more all students must contribute to the final
ministrator-teacher relationships: to than they criticize. In general, praise for learning product.
provide the support and encouragement success can be given in public, because When students help others, they
that adolescents require, teachers and praise often increases such positive emo- develop resiliency. Violence prevention,
staff members must feel supported and tions as pride, but criticism should be antibullying, peer mediation programs,
encouraged by their school administra- given in private because it increases de- and initiatives that encourage students to
tors. Administrators therefore need to fensiveness and anxiety. accept and sponsor less popular students
take care that they foster the same re- Schools that promote resilience also all foster resiliency (Doll, Zucker, &
spectful and positive relationships with promote positive peer relationships Brehm, 2004). Further, schools that fos-
teachers and staff members that they and prosocial behaviors, such as help- ter resiliency also promote positive re-
would like teachers and staff members to ing, sharing, cooperating, collaborative lationships between home and school.
form with students. problem solving, and treating others Such relationships do not require
In addition, it can be helpful to struc-
ture the school setting so every student Factors That Contribute to Resiliency
has adults in whom he or she can trust
and confide. For example, Jones assigned Attitudes and Emotions
every adult in the building, including l Positive attitudes (optimism, determination, problem solving)
himself, a homeroom with the same
l Positive emotions (love, gratitude, forgiveness)
students for multiple years. Many sec-
l Appropriate expression of emotions
ondary schools schedule regular after-
school sessions by subject area to foster
teacher-student communication. Others Competence
use student journals or reaction papers l Academic success
for the same purpose. Some schools take l Regular school attendance and homework completion
steps to reduce the functional ratios of
l Developing talents (outside academic achievement)
teachers to students (Pianta, 1999). For
example, block schedules in which each
student has three major classes each Social Competence
semester, rather than six classes all year, l Connectedness
increase opportunities for communica- l Structure and clear expectations
tion and relationship building between l Helping others
teachers and students because each
teacher has half as many students per se-
Physical Health
mester. All these approaches give adults
opportunities to take an essential step in l Medical care
developing positive relationships: finding l Exercise
somethingor several thingsto like l Adequate sleep
about each student.
l Positive stress control
Many students from adverse back-
grounds have a long history of negative

PL January 2007 11
Student Services

parental attendance at school functions,

How Schools Can Foster Resiliency
but they do require proactive and regular
Resiliency gives students the ability to deal with challenges and adapt formal and informal two-way commu-
to new or difficult circumstances in a positive, productive manner. nication between home and school for
There are number of ways for schools to foster resilience. collaborative priority setting and early
 rovide a caring, supportive learning environment. Feeling
FP interventions so students fully understand
cared for and safe builds students resiliency. Promote positive that the adults in their lives agree upon
social connections between staff members and students, students the importance of academic success.
Encouraging positive attitudes
and their peers, and home and school.
and emotions in students and staff
 oster positive attitudes. Help students believe that they can
members. For teachers to be able to
succeed if they try. Provide situations in which students are able to
foster positive attitudes and emotions in
succeed. Frame failure as a learning opportunity. Teach them to re- students, administrators need to foster
evaluate and adjust strategies that may not be working. the same positive attitudes and emotions
 urture positive emotions. Demonstrate and give students the
FN in teachers and staff members. It can be
chance to practice positive emotions, such as optimism, respect, particularly helpful for administrators to
forgiveness, and empathy. Train staff members to reinforce adopt an approach that stresses a posi-
emotional intelligence, praise students for successes, and avoid tive outlook. For example, some schools
have adopted the Fish! philosophy,
judgmental or harsh criticism for failure.
which focuses on building relationships,
 oster academic self-determination and feelings of
mindfulness, and positive thinking
competence. Provide consistent clear expectations. Help students
through four principles: Be There, Play,
develop a menu of homework and study strategies. Encourage Make Their Day, and Choose Your At-
students to regularly attend school and complete homework as titude (Lundin, 2006; Lundin, Paul, &
well as to develop talents in activities they enjoy. Teach them to set Christensen, 2000).
realistic goals and obtain necessary resources. Adults can help students manage
 ncourage volunteerism. Social competence and resilience
FE negative emotions by teaching them to
are fostered by helping others at home, in school, and in the name emotionssuch as boredom, frus-
community. Create and promote a variety of opportunities for tration, anxiety, and angerand helping
them understand that these emotions
students to contribute to the well-being of others both on and off
are normal yet do not preclude appropri-
ate behavior. When administrators and
 each peace-building skills. Learning how to be appropriately
teachers provide emotion coaching,
assertive without being aggressive fosters resilience. Teach conflict- they help students become more aware
resolution and peer-mediation skills, strategies for standing up to of and able to label emotions, listen em-
bullies, and violence-prevention strategies. pathetically and validate feelings, and
 nsure healthy habits. Good physical health prepares the body
FE derive appropriate ways to solve prob-
and mind to be more resilient and contributes to school success. lems or deal with an upsetting issues
Encourage good nutrition through school food offerings, adequate (Gottman, Declaire, & Goleman, 1998).
sleep, and exercise through education, and increased opportunities Many adverse circumstances, such as
abuse and neglect, are caused by other
for exercise. Facilitate stress reduction by incorporating positive
people. In these situations, resiliency is
stress control strategies, such as meditation, controlled breathing,
fostered when students learn to forgive
yoga, and exercise into school curricula.
othersand themselvesfor playing a
Adapted from: Resiliency: Strategies for Parents and Educators, Helping Children at Home and
part in causing adverse circumstances.
School II: Handouts for Families and Educators, NASP, 2004.
Forgiving is not the same as forgetting

12 PL January 2007
or excusing the harm done. Instead, it is difficulty levelstimulating, challeng- competency-based measures (rather
becoming less angry, resentful, fearful, ing, and manageable. It is best when than group norms) as much as possible.
interested in revenge, or remorseful. It academic and behavioral directions, Administrators can encourage teachers
is not appropriate for forgiveness to oc- expectations, and standards are clear to to link learning about students favorite
cur while harm is still occurring, but at a students; academic work is corrected topics with standard academic work; to
later time forgiving increases well-being and returned promptly; students effort indulge their natural curiosity regarding
and fosters empathy. Learning to forgive and accuracy are emphasized; academic a subject about which they are already
enables injured people to accept imper- success is tied to real-world success; and passionate; and to emphasize assign-
fections in all people, including them- adults identify such methods to obtain ments that enable students to be active
selves. Individuals who forgive choose help from others as working with study participants, rather than passive learners.
to experience, appropriately express, buddies. Teachers who treat students Academic success and resiliency
and then let go of negative feelings of as individuals and collaborators in the are also fostered by the development of
anger, guilt, and retaliation. All of these learning process help students become good study strategies and self-regula-
responses increase future resiliency. It is resilient. As often as possible, these tion of academic work. Important study
important for administrators to model teachers encourage students to select skills include setting goals and tracking
and encourage such responses. learning topics, evaluate their own academic progress, using good time
Promoting students self-control. knowledge, set their own learning goals, management strategies, planning and
For students to develop self-control, and assess their own learning strategies. prioritizing activities, using assignment
adults must first define and foster appro- Administrators and teachers are in an books, breaking large assignments into
priate behavior and select natural conse- ideal position to help students develop components, designating a quiet time
quences for inappropriate behavior. It is pride in learning by focusing on the im- and place to do homewwwwork for six
very important that teachers and admin- provement of individual skills and using or more hours per week, and seeking
istrators clearly state their expectations
and set clear standards for performance.
In secondary schools, administrators and
teachers must reach consensus on rules
so they are consistent across settings; it
can be confusing and disruptive when
individual teachers permit behaviors that
are against school policy. Reaching such
a consensus requires adept administra-
tive skills, because often something that
is of vital importance to one person is
of little significance to others. Involving Advertisement
students in such collaborative work ses-
sions can also be helpful; students who
are involved in setting the rules are more
likely to appreciate their importance and
more likely to cooperate in and facilitate
their implementation.
Fostering academic self-
determination and feelings of com-
petence. Schools that foster resiliency
have academic programs with which
students can be successful most of the
time. Assignments are at an appropriate

PL January 2007 13
help when encountering difficulties. elements and the factors contributing to competence, and fostering the resilien-
Adults can guide students as they devel- the absence of these elements. To help cy of teachers and staff members. The
op these skills and then encourage them with such a process, Doll, Zucker, and more resilient approaches and habits
to self-regulate their application until Brehm (2004) recommend develop- an adolescent develops, the better his
they are independently maintained. ing class maps by surveying students or her ability to weather adversities
In addition to academics, every stu- with a questionnaire that taps feelings encountered in life. PL
dent should develop his or her individual of academic efficacy, academic self-
talents to further increase feelings of determination, behavior self-control, References
competence. Which talentsplaying a teacher-student relationships, peer n Doll, B., Zucker, S., & Brehm, K.
sport, hiking, playing a musical instru- relationships, and home-school relation- (2004). Resilient classrooms: Creating
ment, dancing, drawing, creative writing, ships. The results are graphed and used healthy environments for learning. New
bike riding, computer programming to generate whole-class discussions and York: Guilford Press.
are less important than the feelings of joy to develop problem-solving strategies. n Gottman, J. M., Declaire, J., & Goleman,
and competence that result. Sometimes Similarly, the Classroom Environment D. P. (1998). Raising an emotionally intel-
a talent leads to a career. Most often, it Scale (Moos & Trickett, 1987) can be ligent child. New York: Fireside.
results in an improved ability to deal used to assess relationships, personal n Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2004).
with stress, becomes a source of friend- growth and goal orientation, and system Positive change following trauma and
ships, serves as a positive method of maintenance and change in secondary adversity: A review. Journal of Traumatic
self-expression, and is a constructive use classrooms. After such an assessment, Stress, 17, 1121.
of time. Adults play an important role in administrators, teachers, and students n Lundin, S. C. (2006). Manifesto. Re-
talent development by providing encour- can set measurable goals for improve- trieved May, 7, 2006, from www.chart-
agement, helping adolescents set realistic ment, collaboratively develop and im-
and manageable goals, problem solving plement intervention strategies, collect n Lundin, S. C., Paul, H., & Christensen,
with students, and finding ways to obtain and analyze postintervention data, and J. (2000). Fish! A remarkable way to boost
necessary resources. modify future procedures accordingly. morale and improve results. New York:
Finally, administrators can foster Hyperion.
resiliency by encouraging students to Conclusion n Moos, R. H., & Trickett, E. J. (1987).
achieve good physical health. They can Administrators can foster students Classroom environment scale (2nd ed.). Palo
encourage adolescents to eat well by resiliency by supporting positive Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
ensuring, at least in school, that healthy relationships, encouraging positive n Pianta, R. C. (1999). Enhancing rela-
food is readily available and unhealthy attitudes and emotions, promoting stu- tionships between children and teachers.
food relatively unavailable. By offering dents self-control, fostering academic Washington, DC: American Psychological
intramural sports, aerobics and yoga self-determination and feelings of Association.
classes, and other noncompetitive ath-
letics, administrators can promote reg-
ular exercise, which not only improves
physical health but also decreases the n Strong Kids (for students in grades 4 through 8) and Strong Teens
anxiety, anger, and depression that re- (for students in grades 9 through 12) are classroom curricula
sult from adversity. designed to promote emotional resiliency. The materials are
Troubleshooting. At times, admin- available at no cost as PDF downloads at
istrators will desire a more structured publications.htm
approach to fostering resiliency. In such
cases, they can collaborate with teachers n BullyProofing Your Middle School and BullyProofing for High
and students to assess elements in the Schools are programs that foster positive social supports. They can
school that foster or detract from resil- be ordered at
iency and to define and measure missing

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