KIAT Book Club: The Resilience Revolution Ch. 2

This is a fancy attempt at a "selfie" of me reading.

As I discussed two weeks ago, my co-workers and I are reading, and subsequently discussing, a book called The Resilience Revolution. We like to call this fancy time together a book club. But we do it at work, so there’s no wine.

Let me begin my discussion of this chapter by stating that I’m really enjoying the book so far. I find that things such as Professional Development days and reading books on education inspire me and breath new life into me. Reading this makes me want to be a better teacher.

This is a fancy attempt at a "selfie" of me reading.
This is a fancy attempt at a “selfie” of me reading.

The first chapter talked primarily about the effects of pain on the brain, in particular on the brain of children and teens. This chapter delves more into what resilience is and how to develop it.

Basically, all people are taught to be resilient when they are faced with problems and can bounce back from them to succeed. As we grow up, we naturally become resilient. However, if a person faces too many difficult obstacles or is not given to opportunity to overcome problems, resiliency is deterred. Thus, a youth facing a home life in which problems abound or a youth who is given everything they want, will naturally have a more difficult time naturally developing resiliency.

Resilience is the norm.
Resilience is the norm.

Indeed, in this chapter, I found myself thinking a lot about elementary versus high school education. As someone who has taught both, I can attest to the fact that there is a huge difference between how most teachers (myself included) treat high school vs. elementary aged students. At the elementary age we tend to spend more time with our students, have much smaller classes, and often have a better ability to instil changes. Additionally, they presumably have faced less hardships in their lives and may not be quite as resistant to help or guidance as a teen.

This makes me feel both very lucky and very powerful as a new-found elementary teacher. I have far less students than I did as a high school teacher and I spend 6 hours a day with them rather than 60 minutes. It’s a big burden, but one that most teachers decided to agree to when picking their major. It’s a heavy, but rewarding, burden to bear.

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The book discusses factors which create a resilient child and discusses how we can implement these into our classrooms, teaching practices, and interactions with children.

Almost time for chapter three!

If you want to want to buy the book, here’s the link to it on Amazon.

The Value of Word Walls

Word walls were something that confounded me upon entering the realm of elementary school teachers; what was the big deal and why did every teacher have one?

So I did some research and put up a, quite frankly, mediocre wall at best. It was a large sheet of paper on which we  could add words to.

Unfortunately, I found it to be rather useless. We hardly ever added words (my own fault) and as the class moved on with curriculum and units we began running out of space and the words often became irrelevant.

So I revamped the entire thing.

I cleared one of my whiteboards entirely and created an interactive and adjustable word wall.

Our Grade 4 Word Wall!
Our Grade 4 Word Wall!

The size and simplicity makes it easier for my students (who all have learning disabilities) to view words and know what they are and mean.

Additionally, I am able to erase words to add new ones once all or the majority of my class has mastered them or when we change units.

To gather words for our board and to make my board work best for my kids, I use three different strategies:

  1. When new vocabulary is introduced in any subject, we add it to the board. This helps the board become, not just a Language Arts tool, but a great source of information for Social Studies, Math, Science, etc.
  2. I test my kids four times a year using Dolch Sight Words and calculate which words they’re having the most difficulty with. Once a week we discuss one or two words and I’ll add them to the board. The next time they’re tested on the word (which is either then next time they’re tested on the word lists or occasionally on a spelling quiz), if they’ve mastered it, I remove the words and add new ones.
  3. Finally, to help the kids feel more invested in the board, about once a month I will have them give me words they have difficulty with. I will either get them to think, pair, share, or I will give them a topic (for example, In Spring I might have them give me words they often need to spell regarding the season that they have trouble with).

I’ve found that these changes I’ve made have turned my word wall into a hugely valuable tool in my classroom rather than simply a random thing all elementary teachers seem to have, so why not me too? I recommend involving students as much as possible so that they value the wall for the aid that it is, feel involved in it, and feel like valuable contributors to the class.

KIAT Book Club: The Resilience Revolution Ch. 1

The Resilience Revolution: Discovering the Strengths in Challenging Kids

I am very lucky to work with a staff who are passionate about their work, always seeking to improve, and who are social. Possessing all of these traits, one of my co-workers suggested at the beginning of the year that we should start a book club. We began with a book called “The Hidden Power of Kindness” by Lawrence G. Lovasik, which I won’t be discussing now (perhaps in the Summer?), which we finished about two weeks ago. We’re now starting a second book (which I will be discussing now) called “The Resilience Revolution” by Larry K. Brendtro and Scott J. Larson.

The Resilience Revolution: Discovering the Strengths in Challenging Kids
The Resilience Revolution: Discovering the Strengths in Challenging Kids

The books reads like a textbook, but is a lot more engaging than many texts I’ve previously read. Indeed, I have to admit that during my undergrad (a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Sociology), I almost always enjoyed the texts we read. However, during my B.Ed. I couldn’t say the same. I feel like it was because I didn’t really see them in context, having done the majority of our theory study before actually participating in practicums and being in a classroom. Now, having been teaching for 5 years, I see books like this in context and find them so much more valuable.

The first chapter talks primarily about pain and acts to humanize “problem” kids and appeal to the reader’s own humanity. It opens with one of the most poignant quotes I can remember coming across is a long time:

"Hurt people hurt people" - Native American Proverb
“Hurt people hurt people” – Native American Proverb

“Hurt people hurt people.”

It’s so simple and so accurate that it made me actually pause breathing for a moment just to stare at it a second longer.

In this chapter, the book touches upon the fact that emotional and physical pain register the same way in our brains and we innately go into “survival mode” when we feel threatened. Thus, kids who have experienced either physical or emotional pain are, inevitably, prone to distrust and will use anger, aggression, pushing others away, drugs, etc. as a form of basic human survival.

The more pain a person experiences, the less likely they are to follow social norms of basic kindness and openness when faced with new relationships. This is especially pronounced in youths whose brains are still developing. Just as these kids haven’t developed the social norms of most of their peers, they won’t react to traditional discipline the same way. They don’t care about being punished by someone they don’t respect and who doesn’t show respect to them. Therefore, the best way to install positive change is to show caring and empathy toward troubled youths.

Interested in more? Me too! Chapter two in two weeks!

Want to buy the book? Click here or the title in the first paragraph for the link to Amazon.