By Melody Mann, CEI Intern and Dana Asby, CEI Director of Innovation & Research Support
While COVID-19 has brought forth feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, and instability, it has also shown us how very resilient we are. Individuals of all ages were impacted by the global pandemic as they learned to adjust to the changes. Thanks to global collaborations, vaccines and efforts to defeat the virus are in motion. At the end of this school year, public health administrations were welcoming students and their families back into the classroom. This whole experience has instilled resilience and strength in everyone as they navigated unprecedented times.
Resilience We Built
During the COVID-19 pandemic, students of all ages—and the staff and family members who supported them—have demonstrated their abilities to adapt under pressure, continue their education, and work proactively to stay on track in distance learning.
Resilience is both an outcome and a process that communities and individuals undergo (McCleary & Figley, 2017). Communities have embodied resilience as they faced the everyday challenges of the pandemic. The American Psychological Association (2012) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress.” There are many factors that impact resilience such as biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors that interact and influence how an individual responds to a stressful situation (Southwick et al., 2014). Students have defined resilience this school year as the ability to deal with unexpected events, wearing a mask, not seeing friends, never giving up, and getting back up to try again (St. Albans City School Museum of Resilience, 2021).
When school communities want to increase their resilience, professional development, coaching, and collaborating with mental health experts can help. Fairview Elementary and McGee’s Crossroads Elementary are two schools that are part of the Public School Forum’s North Carolina Resilience & Learning Project. This program partnered with local schools to provide teachers with intensive trauma-informed coaching this year. This partnership provides teachers with the tools and resources needed to promote resiliency and courage in their students (DeKonty, 2020).
Celebrating Our Resilience
Some administrators have made time and space to celebrate the specific acts of resilience that students, families, and staff demonstrated during COVID-19. One of those schools is St. Alban City School, where principal and Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative Fellow Joan Cavallo has worked with her students and staff to define resilience and celebrate the resilience of the entire school community. Joan’s years of working to cultivate a trauma-skilled compassionate school community were evident in her school’s ability to effectively respond to the challenges of COVID-19 in a learning environment.
St. Alban City School held a Resilient Day to showcase and celebrate how much their school community grew out of these difficult times. Educators taught students about the concept of resilience and inspired student projects on the topic. For example, in one second grade classroom, students demonstrated how they embodied the different components of being resilient—flexibility, optimism, and self-compassion. Other classrooms shared videos and pictures of their class communities being resilient. Some classes created art or writing that explained how they were resilient during COVID-19. St. Alban’s City School compiled all of the classrooms’ resilience projects into a Resilience Museum that can inspire any school community to start teaching and practicing resilience!
The pandemic has taught us important lessons that will further improve the way we navigate difficulties going forward. The value of community and family have been highlighted. The inequities that exist along race and class lines have been illuminated, with essential workers who deserve an immense amount of recognition and respect bearing disproportionate challenges during COVID-19. And the importance of self- and community care have been ingrained in our minds as we turned to these practices to get through times of incredible stress—together.
The pandemic has brought to light the connectivity and power in communal healing. Everyone has been practicing better self care in order to ground themselves and be present for one another. This brings us to be sensible and more present in our interactions going forward. This presence also helps us as a community to value and respect individuals in all fields of work.
The pandemic has taught us that anything is possible when we come together; and when we heal together, we may come out of a challenging situation as a stronger community.
AARP Bulletin. (2021). 15 lessons the coronavirus pandemic has taught us.
American Psychological Association. (2012). Building your resilience.
Dekonty, K. (2020). Perspective | Walking the resilience road: From overwhelmed to compassion-in-action. EdNC.
McCleary, J., & Figley, C. (2017). Resilience and trauma: Expanding definitions, uses, and contexts [Editorial]. American Psychological Association Traumatology, 23(1), 1–3.
St. Albans City School Museum of Resilience (2021). What is Resilience: An introductory video.
Southwick, S. M., Bonanno, G. A., Masten, A. S., Panter-Brick, C., & Yehuda, R. (2014). Resilience definitions, theory, and challenges: interdisciplinary perspectives. The National Institute of Health. European journal of psychotraumatology, 5.10.3402/ejpt.v5.25338.