Survival and resilience are not the same. Which will you choose?

by Andy Shaw
Director of Professional Learning

Growth and resilience are always a choice. As the school year launches in the midst of a pandemic, schools and school leaders are faced with a difficult decision: to survive and simply get by, or to be resilient and maintain a focus on growth in the face of unprecedented challenge. We can tread water and wait for the rescue boat to arrive, or we can fix our gaze on the shore and begin to swim, one exhausting but crucial stroke after another. In our team’s conversations this month, we’ve heard numerous courageous leaders, often those in communities struggling most with COVID-19 and remote learning, express the belief that now is a time to recommit to goal-setting and growth. We have also talked to leaders who feel like they can do nothing but tread water. It’s heartbreaking, but understandable: now is a time when it’s natural to just want to get by, to survive. If you find yourself being pulled down into this mindset, here’s how you might begin to commit to resilience rather than survival for this school year:

1) Begin rewiring for resilience: As Lucy Hone discusses in her TED talk, the most resilient people do three things: they understand that suffering is part of life and avoid thinking “why me”; they direct their attention to the the things they can change over the things they can’t, and to the good over the bad; and they ask themselves whether their own behaviors are helping or hurting them. Watch the video, and make the choice – how will you integrate these mindsets into the way you navigate the world?

2) Set themes that resonate with the times: Your school’s professional growth themes will by definition look different this year – here at Folio our team has set goals like “How might I be less reactive to my own kids during virtual learning, so that I can be more present for them and for my own work?” and “How might I say ‘yes’ more often at work, in order to be more agile in the face of a rapidly changing work environment?” Pick themes in the myFolio platform that feel authentic and meaningful given your context.

3) Start with your own growth orientation: Start by setting your own personal goals. Log in to myFolio and work through the Goal Wizard’s reflection prompts. Set goals that feel authentic, and note how you feel after doing so. If getting started feels impossible, consider what feels hard right now. How do you need to be different as a leader in order to help your school succeed this year? Hint: that’s your growth goal.

4) Help your teams get away from fight-or-flight: Give faculty and staff the space, time, and encouragement to talk through what’s hard, acknowledge the “yuck,” and then move to a place where they can focus on the positive and assess what is within their control. Creating a container for this kind of release and de-stressing is crucial as you help colleagues move towards a “green brain” learning-oriented mindset.

5) Lead a goal-setting meeting for your faculty and staff: As the leader, you set the tone for the school; if you want a resilient organization rather than a survival-based organization, it has to start with you. Think about how you want to set the tone for the year, how you’re going to make the case for prioritizing growth and resilience over simply surviving and treading water. Open your meeting by speaking from the heart, and sharing the goals you have set for yourself. Then use one of our recommended formats for a goal-setting meeting activity, or create your own.

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