Teachers Teaching Teachers #151 – 05.13.09 – Resiliency: What are we learning from our students? (Part 1)

This is the first of a two-part podcast. Please listen to part two as well: Teachers Teaching Teachers #154 – Resiliency: What are we learning with our colleagues (Part 2 of 2) -06.03.09

Please consider this podcast to be an invitation, perhaps even a request for you to join us in the National Writing Project in this conversation about resiliency, writing, and teaching in these difficult times. We ask that you listen to this podcast, then add your own story (by posting a comment) about a student who exhibited the qualities of resiliency that we are seeking to nurture in our classrooms. What specific structures, decisions, books, approaches, projects or technologies have you learned to employ in your classroom to provide the "protective factors" that enable "at-risk" students to develop the resiliency they need to succeed?

Our guests on this podcast are:

  • DeWayne Dickens, Oklahoma State Writing Project
  • Suzanne Linebarger, Northern California Writing Project
  • Sandra Hogue, Louisville Writing Project
  • Irina McGrath, Louisville Writing Project
  • Lynette Herring-Harris, Thinking Partner for Rural Sites Network
  • Vanessa Brown, Thinking Partner for the Urban Sites Network, Philadelphia Writing Project

Resiliency theories have been shared for over a decade. These teachers are just a few of the members of the National Writing Project’s Urban and Rural Sites Networks, who have been discussing the implications of resiliency research for classroom practice. On this podcast you will hear what they see and do when stakes are high, supports are limited, and odds are tough—and kids rise above it all.

  • DeWayne tells us about a woman in her late-30’s who has failed Composition II three times, but is not giving up.
  • Suzanne describes Jermaine, the Mayor of Liondot Avenue, and a video project that draws him into school.
  • Sandra relates a story about six-year-old "Richard" who had been removed from his home and placed with his aunt, but who finds himself in literature.
  • Irina tells us about her work with English Language Learners, her Spanish-speaking students who found community by telling their stories in Spanish.
  • Lynette talks about a letter she wrote to her students with a quarter for a phone call. Many of her rural students used these quarters, connecting with a teacher who cared. They were kids who had the odds against them, but they found success.

This podcast is the first of a special two-part Teachers Teaching Teachers sponsored by the Urban Sites Network and Rural Sites Network of the National Writing Project. The next webcast will be on Wednesday June 3, 2009 right here at EdTechTalk at 9:00pm Eastern / 6:00pm Pacific USA Wednesday / 01:00 UTC Thursdays World Times.

After the webcast, DeWayne sent around a statement by a student that represents his thinking on resilience: "Overall, I feel as though I have accomplished the impossible. I has not been easy, nor has it been without failure, but it has been the hardships that have made the successes not only more important but much more meaningful."

Another example from DeWayne:

A student from this semester with visual impairment represents the resilience needed to make it through school. Some days he was angry. Some days he seemed lost because he could not see the white board, the classroom text books, or the computer screens. He had to learn how to make requests of staff, faculty, and students–in a mature and respectful manner that placed people in a mode of wanting to help him. At the beginning of the semester, most comments were angry and forceful. Toward the end of the semester, the comments shifted to engaging others in helping him solve his problems by his suggesting possible alternate ways for others to provide him work. He had moved to appreciating his academic skills and his need to master even subjects he detested. This young father became an agent in his learning, not just a bystander hoping to gather some crumbs from what others distributed at will. I call him my "Seeing Better Now" student.

Suzanne wanted to add to the conversation that she found the webcast to be "inspirational…much needed right now!" She continues, "I’ve been thinking about the development of the resiliency research. It began, I believe with Emmy Werner’s work in Kauai. Bonnie Benard built on that work, and later researchers like Tim Burns and Nan Henderson built on Benard’s work. My husband did his doctoral work by creating a sort of backward resilience study with students in a small rural high school who had been in the community since kindergarten."

Suzanne also points us to what might be next:

I’m wondering if there’s a place for new thinking… where to from here… in our next conversation [June 3]. Is there a place for us to continue the work? Dewayne’s study of persistance is powerful, as is thinking about the far reaching results of Kentucky’s professional learning community. Around here [Northern California], many of our schools used to use Dorothy Rich’s book MegaSkils to foster resiliency, but shifted to a weekly list of character traits, which everyone is finding not nearly as effective as people had hoped. This is certainly a perfect time to revisit resiliency. New applications…New ideas…California teachers for sure are hungry for any hopeful thinking!

Finally, Suzanne point us to an article, "Fostering Resiliency in Kids," Bonnie Benard, Educational Leadership Vol. 51, Number 3 November 1993. Other resources for Benard’s work can be found at this National Writing Project resource: The Importance of Resiliency in Learning and Writing, by Art Peterson.

It’s probably evident that this is an ongoing conversation between theory and practice. We would love to include your story of what you have learned from your resilient students. How has working with students such as the ones in this podcast transformed your teaching? We would be pleased if you would take the time to describe the students in your classroom by leaving a comment.

And, of course, please join us again on Wednesday June 3, 2009 right here at EdTechTalk at 9:00pm Eastern / 6:00pm Pacific USA Wednesday / 01:00 UTC Thursdays World Times.


Click Read more to see a transcript of a chat that was happening during the webcast.