As students traverse problem mazes, they acquire problems-solving skills to face adversity and thereby develop resilience
While we have changed track and reassigned resources to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and educationists are constantly reviewing strategies and incorporating changes to help students overcome the trauma. As a teacher involved in teacher education, it is evident that the impact on the ‘student teacher’ requires intervention and change in philosophy of and approach to teaching. Nature has many lessons about bouncing back — or resilience — to enable individuals overcome difficulties.
Resilience is an individual’s capacity to cope with, adapt to, and recover from situations of adversity. This ability varies from person to person, is influenced by biological, social and environmental factors and can be taught and imbibed through right training and skill development. Students can develop tools to learn to deal with adverse life situations.
Kintsugi, an ancient Japanese art that means “join with gold”, adds flavor to the idea of resilience. Broken pieces of pottery are glued together with “lacquer inflected with gold powder,” so that the broken pots emerge with a richness that converts the cracks into beautiful designs. Humans too can be taught to overcome the effects of trauma and redesign their lives to make it meaningful and fruitful.
Students can develop resilience by developing a sense of autonomy to become independent and unique individuals. Autonomy can only occur through taking responsibility, becoming accountable, and free of dependence. Activities and assignments when done independently promote autonomy, develop self-confidence and a sense of confidence in dealing with problems. As students solve the problem maze, they acquire the skills to face life and adversity. When failure or feelings of negativity occur, they learn to reframe their thoughts to think positively, and find options with divergent and convergent thinking. Most importantly, they learn coping strategies to face insurmountable problems, answering questions such as ‘What are the options to solve this problem?’ ‘How to face the unexpected?’ ‘How to deal with a tragedy?’ …
A major question that arises is how these can be implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic? Academicians must come up with strategies in this new situation. Students have to uninfected while learning to develop resilience. Teachers and parents must work in tandem, develop assignments in the home environment, and encourage a participative and proactive culture. The new mode of teaching and learning is online, and schools can use it to inculcate resilience. Students must be able to express themselves in and through various media. Here are some ways in which schools can help build students’ resilience:
Class discussions: Talking about bouncing back from failure, tragedies, and the negative impact of experiences is one way of helping students become aware that failure is not the end of life. In such discussions, students can share personal experiences and describe how they dealt with the situations and the outcomes, as it provides them with a window into their own lives and that of their peers.
Self-evaluation and sharing: Students can engage in exercises to identify their strengths and weaknesses and also discuss ways to enhance the former and tide over the latter. They can analyse their successes and failures and share how they were able to do well or what contributed to their failure. This process enables students to look beyond themselves and learn not just from their own experiences but also that of others.
Emotional regulation and flexibility: Students need to learn about their bodies, their propensities and how this can affect their mood or mind set. When taught to self regulate and express their emotions in a manner that allows resolution of the conflict, they learn flexibility to cope with the struggles of life.
Coping with failure: Discussions on failure, its impact and how it is viewed are important as this will help develop skills to cope and prevent self-blame and create a positive attitude with a realisitic evaluation of their situation. Attitudinal change can be brought about by teaching flexible thinking, which opens up the mind to life’s diverse possibilities. This will also ensure that students don’t give up hope.
Cooperation and new experiences: Students should be encouraged to master the art of cooperating with others through ventures that require sharing of skills and knowledge for the project to succeed. In addition, they can be guided to seek new experiences that will upgrade their knowledge and skills by developing different hobbies, seeking adventure and explorative experiences.
Teaching students to deal with crisis, as they experience each aspect of the learning process, enables them to increase their ability to become resilient and gradually master life skills. Resilience can only be built individually and uniquely. The process is ongoing and as students overcome small and surmountable challenges, they will become skilled to deal with larger and tougher ones.