Monday, July 22, 2013

Discovering Resiliency


Teaching Resilient Students in the age of the Common Core

I was recently reminded of how important it is to be resilient. As the title of my blog indicates, I am a happy camper. I am most relaxed when I am unconnected, unplugged, sitting around a campfire with family and friends. So it was with much anticipation and excitement as my husband and I loaded our travel trailer, hooked it up to the truck and headed out on the highway. We were headed to a favorite spot, Rock Creek, about 300 miles away in Central California. I had recently participated in #aledchat on Twitter regarding developing resilience in our students. Resilience is defined by Merriam-Webster as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. So I was driving along Highway 395, pulling our trailer, contemplating how we could ensure our students are resilient—able to adjust and recover from misfortune.

And then it happened. One of the trailer tires blew! In my rear view mirror I saw rubber flying up next to me on the highway, felt rough bumping, and heard “thump, thump, thump, thump”. I carefully pulled over on the side of the highway. For those of you unfamiliar with Highway 395, it is one of those two lane highways where cars try to blindly pass slow moving trailers, praying a semi truck isn’t barreling toward them in the other lane. I had Death Valley off to the right and Mount Whitney off to the left, cars speeding past, and NO spare. I can almost hear your many voices, “you drove hundreds of miles without a spare tire?”. My husband and I quickly assessed the situation, realized the shredded tire was far beyond repair, and decided we needed help. I fought through spotty cell service and finally reached AAA roadside assistance, explained the situation, and a tow truck was dispatched. It wasn’t going to be that easy. The dispatched company called to let me know that unfortunately, they were more than 30 minutes away and more importantly, they didn’t have a tire to fit my trailer.
The Blow Out!

Panic started to set it, as I paced back and forth along the trailer, out in the desert. No spare, no help on the way. My much calmer husband began listing options. I chose option #1. We called a tire shop in Bishop, CA, inquired about trailer tires, and more importantly, the availability of a spare rim. As if he were an angel sent from above, my new best friend Paul from Simpson’s Tires responded with a resounding yes….he had a rim and a tire. What he didn’t have was a free mechanic or truck and was not able to bring me the tire. We unhooked the trailer, left it stranded on the side of the highway, drove to Bishop, picked up the spare, drove back to the trailer, called the tow truck company and three hours later we had a fresh tire on the trailer and we were back on the road. After a second quick stop at Simpson’s Tires to pick up a 5th tire (now the spare) we reached our camping spot high up in the Eastern Sierra’s where relaxation set in.

It’s in that relaxation spot that I again thought about resilience. I had just recovered fairly easily from misfortune. I didn’t let that setback define my summer vacation or my camping experience. How had I been able to recover? I took stock: I had resources to recover (cell phone, credit cards, a AAA membership with RV coverage). I had support (a husband who is very good at making lemonade out of lemons and never, ever sweats the small stuff). I had confidence based on prior experience (I have had worse car troubles, I have had flat tires before). Resources + Support + Confidence from Prior Experiences = Resilience.

Do my students have those necessities? I realize some of my students have much greater misfortunes than a flat trailer tire. They have loss of a parent, due to deportation, death, or imprisonment. They have illnesses and abuse. They have unimagined poverty. They also have poor grades, low test scores, and sometimes difficult relationships with staff. They will also face the Common Core. They will need to persevere through difficult and unfamiliar math problems. They will be expected to read, analyze and respond to unfamiliar non-fiction texts. Have we given them the resources they need? (digital devices, a variety of sources, printed texts). Will we provide enough support? (online discussion boards, peer problem solving groups, positive relationships with teachers). Will they gain confidence in themselves? (experience safe failure, multiple attempts). Will they be resilient as we send them off to high school?

One final note…for those of you who think that one flat tire in the desert doesn’t prove you are resilient. How about two? That’s right! On our way home I made a 2nd call to AAA for assistance after another trailer tire blew. This time was much less dire however, thanks to a recently purchased spare! Two flat tires in four days in the desert in 110 degrees…no tears. I think I am resilient.

 

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