The Resilient Educator. By Michael E. Bernard, Ph.D. PS17

The Resilient Educator

Working  as  a  teacher,  mental  health  practitioner,  or  administrator,  there  are  times  when  negative,  adverse  events  at  work  (and  home)  can  lead  you  to  experience  a  range  of  negative  emotions  such  as  anger,  anxiety  or  feeling  down.  While  these  negative  emotions  are  normal  and  understandable,  when  you  become  emotionally  tense  (especially  when  you  are  not  aware  of  your  emotional  state),  not  only  is  your  overall  social-­‐‑emotional  well-­‐‑being  impaired,  but  your  ability  to  think  clearly,  solve  problems,  and  continue  to  perform  at  a  high  level  of  professional  effectiveness  is  greatly  reduced.

Working  as  a  teacher,  mental  health  practitioner,  or  administrator,  there  are  times  when  negative,  adverse  events  at  work  (and  home)  can  lead  you  to  experience  a  range  of  negative  emotions  such  as  anger,  anxiety  or  feeling  down.  While  these  negative  emotions  are  normal  and  understandable,  when  you  become  emotionally  tense  (especially  when  you  are  not  aware  of  your  emotional  state),  not  only  is  your  overall  social-­‐‑emotional  well-­‐‑being  impaired,  but  your  ability  to  think  clearly,  solve  problems,  and  continue  to  perform  at  a  high  level  of  professional  effectiveness  is  greatly  reduced.

A  key  personal  capability  we  all  need  to  handle  our  emotions  when  the  going  gets  tough  is  “resilience”.  No  matter  how  skilled  you  are  in  classroom  management,  in  the  design  of  behaviour  intervention  plans,  in  leading  or  working  on  teams,  and,  more  generally,  in  managing  the  various  aspects  of  the  job,  without  resilience,  the  ability  to  deliver  your  abundant  professional  skills  is  blocked.

Resilience  means…when  faced  with  challenging  situations  including  change  as  well  as  when  confronted  with  difficult  situations  and  people,  (1)  being  aware  of  your  negative  emotions  (anxiety,  anger,  down)  including  your  degree  of  upset,  (2)  being  able  to  prevent  yourself  from  getting  extremely  upset,  (3)  when  you  get  extremely  upset,  being  able  to  control  your  behaviour  so  that  you  do  not  behave  aggressively  or  withdraw  from  others  at  inappropriate  times,  and  (4)  when  you  are  very  upset,  knowing  how  to  think  and  what  to  do  to  calm  down  within  a  reasonable  period  of  time,  and  (5)  bouncing  back  to  work  and  being  with  others.  By  helping  you  maintain  control  of  your  negative  emotions,  resilience  helps  you  to  think,  feel  and  behave  in  positive  ways  in  order  to  overcome  difficulty  and  move  on.

Resilience  as  a  personal  capability  involves  your  use  of  rational  thinking  and  a  variety  of  coping  skills  that  help  you  regulate  the  intensity  of  your  emotional  response  to  adverse  events  in  your  life.  Rational  thinking  (e.g.  not  blowing  things  out  of  proportion,  switching  from  negative  thought  to  positive  thoughts,  not  taking  the  situation  personally)  focus  on  ways  you  can  stay  calm  and  calm  down  and  be  in  control  of  your  emotions  when  the  adversity  cannot  be  so  readily  eliminated  from  your  life.  Coping  skills  (e.g.  asserting  yourself,  managing  your  time,  relaxation,  finding  someone  to  talk  to)  can  help  you  to  stay  calm  as  well  as  eliminate  the  adversity  (e.g.  oppositional  student,  someone  asking  you  to  join  another  committee).  Resilience  also  involves  using  your  personal  capabilities  of  confidence,  persistence,  organisation  and  getting  along  to  take  positive  actions  when  confronted  with  challenging  and  difficult  situations  and  people.

Resilience  is  not  about  eliminating  emotions  totally.  It  is  about  empowering  you  so  that  you  feel  you  have  some  control  over  your  emotional  response  to  adverse  situations.

My  own  recent  research  throughout  Australia,  England,  and  the  United  States  into  the  personal  capabilities  of  educators  has  yielded  some  interesting  findings.  While  educators  as  a  group  tend  to  have  strong  getting  along  capabilities, are  extremely  persistent,  and  are  generally  organised,  they  indicate  that  they  need  to  develop  their  confidence  and  resilience.

This  article  provides  some  ideas  on  that  have  helped  countless  teachers,  special  educators,  administrators,  and  mental  health  practitioners  further  develop  their  potential  to  become  resilient.

We  have  learned  that  there  are  three  main  negative  emotions  that  all  people  experience  at  various  times  when  they  are  faced  with  adverse  events:  anger,  anxiety  and  feeling  down  (depressed).  It  is  quite  normal  and  healthy  to  experience  these  negative  emotions.  as  they  often  can  help  motivate  you  to  eliminate  the  adversity.

Resilience: The “Big Picture”

We  have  also  learned  that  the  same  emotion  can  vary  in  intensity  from  strong  to  weak  as  illustrated  by  the  Emotional  Thermometer.  For  example,  if  a  student  curses  at  you,  you  may  experience  various  degrees  of  anger  from  mild  annoyance  (temperature  rating  of  1  or  2)  to  extreme  rage  (temperature  rating  of  9  or  10).  It  is  when  our  emotions  become  extreme  that  our  behaviour  often  becomes  erratic  and  self-­‐‑defeating  as  when  we  act  aggressively  or  withdraw.



A  goal  to  set  for  yourself  when  you  are  faced  with  negative,  adverse  events  at  work  or  home  is  to  not  become  extremely  upset  but  rather,  using  the  Emotional  Thermometer  as  a  guide,  to  stay  within  the  middle  range  of  emotional  upset  (temperature  rating  between  4 and  7).




Adverse Events in Schools

Because  of  the  nature  of  schools  including  the  constant  interaction  among  students,  teachers  and  parents,  high  workload  demands,  public  accountability  of  teachers,  special  educators  and  administrators  for  improved  test  scores,  there  are  numerous  adverse  events  (“things”)  that  all  too  frequently  occur  at  school  that  can  give  rise  to  varying  degrees  of  anger,  anxiety  and,  or,  feeling  down.  Examples  of  these  provided  by  teachers  are  listed  on  the  following  page.

Events  that  give  rise  to  anger  include  actions  of  others  you  perceive  to  be  unjust,  unfair,  inconsiderate,  disrespectful,  or  unprofessional.  Anger  can  also  be  precipitated  when  you  perceive  that  there  are  too  many  things  to  do  and  not  enough  time  to  do  them.

Events  that  give  rise  to  anxiety  are  those  current  or  future  events  that  might  occur  that  indicate  that  you  are  not  being  as  successful  in  an  area  of  your  work  (achievement,  discipline)  as  you  would  like  to  be  or  events  that  indicate  that  people  (students,  administrators,  colleagues,  parents)  might  be  critical  of  you.

Events  leading  to  you  feeling  down  include  past  events  that  reveal  you  have  not  been  successful  in  meeting  your  goals  in  areas  of  professional  accomplishment  (student  lack  of  achievement,  meeting  students’  needs,  out  of  control  class)  or  when  you  have  been  criticised  by  someone  whose  opinion  you  respect  and  value  for  some  aspect  of  your  work.

Examples of Common Adverse Events at School

hings that Lead to Anger …

Adverse Events Associated with Students (unfairness, inconsideration, disrespect): Students who refuse to follow directions in class and playground, interrupt teachers, waste time, lie (e.g. forge parent’s signature), cheat, steal, fight, talk back, do not do homework, tattle, bully, throw objects, swear, show disrespect to each other, daydream, do not understand schoolwork, do not listen, are not organised and take a lot of time to get materials ready, have poor study habits

Adverse Events Associated with Other Teachers/Staff, Administration or Parents (unfairness, inconsideration, disrespect): disruptions outside of class, not being treated professionally by other teachers, differences in the manner in which teachers relate to and teach other students, equipment not being returned, unfair time tabling, principal makes decisions without discussing issues with those impacted by decisions, lack of communication, lack of respect from other teachers for what you do, teachers not following through on doing what they say, lack of administrative support, preferences in teaching loads, unfair share of “duty”, having “worst” students, delay by administration in ordering needed material, secretary hides supplies, lack of cooperation, gossip and rumours being spread among staff, parents who support student’s bad behaviour, parents accusing teacher without knowing all the facts, parents who question grades of their child

hings that Lead to Anxiety …

Adverse Events Associated with Students: when you see or anticipate (lack of success/criticism) … not being able to control the behaviours of the students in your class, restlessness in students, not being liked by students, students being angry and “turned off”, students’ reactions to being given poor grades, being asked a question you cannot answer, being unable to adapt to meet the individual needs of students, being unable to motivate students, arguing over test answers or grades, cheating by students, students not performing well on tests and not meeting goals set for them, not holding high enough expectations of students, not being respected by students, students “twisting” situations when reporting an incident to parents, students not showing up for class, students hurting each other, students declining in behaviour or academic performance from previous standards, students not having learned benchmarks for age/grade, not being able to teach because of time involved in managing severe behaviours (e.g. autism), low academic performance of students

Adverse Events Associated with Other Teachers/Staff, Administration or Parents: when you see or anticipate (lack of success/criticism) … walking into class unprepared, school principal or supervisor has critical judgments to communicate to you about your discipline or instructional effectiveness, negative encounters with parents who are critical of you, incompatible relationship with an administrator or supervisor, aides not fulfilling obligations, finding time for creative teaching, having too much work to do at home, being blamed by parents, responsibilities for extra curricular activities, excessive noise and disruptions outside the classroom

hings that Lead to Feeling Down …

Adverse Events Associated with Students (lack of success/criticism): students continuing to misbehave, not knowing how to make students who suck their thumb and cry feel better, lack of success of a child in special education you have responsibility for, lack of success in meeting the needs of students in special education, watching and not being able to help students who manifest ongoing emotional problems (e.g. separation anxiety), students not showing up for an activity, setbacks after progress with a student, being compared by students to other successful teachers, a “sea” of blank student faces, lack of student enthusiasm, not being successful in individualising

instruction, personal comments by a student about teacher (“This is boring.”), poor exam results made public, not being promoted, someone else being selected to go to a conference, another teacher or program receiving greater support

Adverse Events Associated with Other Teachers/Staff, Administration or Parents (lack of success/criticism)… other teachers who try to discipline students in your class, being treated as outcasts as special education teachers, criticism/lack of parental support, public criticism thought by teacher to be correct, exclusion from social groups after school, being ignored

“Things  Are Neither Good nor Bad But Thinking Makes Them So.” -Shakespeare

We  now  understand  that  the  greatest  influence  over  the  extent  to  which  you  are  emotionally  calm  and  in  control  when  faced  with  adverse  situations  is  your  thinking  rather  than  the  situation  itself.  Take,  for  example,  a  teacher  who is  faced  with  a  student  who  curses.  You  can  see  from  the  accompanying  diagrams  that  one  large  factor  that  determines  how  upset  you  become  in  the  face  of  cursing  is  the  way  you  think  about

the  student’s  behaviour.

Examples of Different  Emotional Reactions to the Same Situation


Happening                                    Thinking                                    Feeling                 Behaviour
student curses Teacher A  

Students should always be respectful. This is awful and terrible.

I can’t stand it.

This student is a real          _.


extreme anger anger

out of control



puts student down irrational penalty

Teacher B  

I prefer students to be respectful. I can deal with it.

I don’t like this behaviour.

This student is fallible and is making a mistake.



annoyed in control


talks respectfully to student

logical consequence



Happening Thinking                                    Feeling                 Behaviour
student curses Teacher A  

I should have been successful with this student.

Others will judge me badly. This is awful. I can’t stand it.

I am hopeless.



extremely down




Teacher B I prefer to be successful and have my work approved of by others.

When I am not, it’s bad, but not the end of the world. I can cope.

I’ll try to figure out if there is anything I can do.








constructive action

Don’t Go Blowing Things Out of Proportion

Over  the  past  few  decades,  I  have  written  about

an  aspect  of  our  thinking  that  contributes  a  great  deal  to  our  emotional  stress  and  poor  resilience.  This  tendency  is  referred  to  as  catastrophising.  Simply  stated,  catastrophising  means  the  tendency  to  blow  the  badness  of  events  out  of  proportion.

What  we  have  learned  is  that  when  people  of  all  ages  become  extremely  emotionally  upset,  they  do  so  because  they  are  thinking  to  themselves  that  what  has  happened  or  is  about  to  happen  is  not  only  bad,  but  is  the  worst  thing  that  could

happen.  We  use  particular  words  and  phrases  when  we  catastrophise  such  as:  “This  is  terrible.”  “This  is  horrible.”  “This  is  really  the  worst  thing.”  We  use  these  words  and  phrases  not  only  when  referring  to  events  that  are  catastrophic  such  as  war,  terrorism,  natural  disasters  but  to  events  that  are  bad  but  not  catastrophic  such  as  when  we  make  mistakes,  fail  or  when  people  are  thinking  critically  of  what  we  have  done  or  said.

Consider  the  Emotional  Thermometer  (see  page 2).  As  indicated,  it  can  be  used  to  measure  the intensity  of  how  strongly  someone  feels.  Now,  when  something  happens  to  us  that  we  perceive  to  be  bad  such  as  making  a  mistake  or  being  rejected,  it  is  normal  to  feel  in  the  middle   of  the  Emotional  Thermometer.  We  might  feel  somewhat  or  medium  down,  or  worried  or  angry.  However,  when  we  catastrophise,  that  is,  blow  the  event  out  of  proportion,  our  emotional  temperature  moves  way  up  the  thermometer  and  we  feel  very  down,  panicked  or  furious.

Please  take  a  minute  to  read  through  an  example  of  a  teacher  and  a  principal  who  are  experiencing  extremely  high  emotional  stress.  Please  consider  whether  or  not  the  way  they  view  and  think  about  some  troubling  events  reveal  an  “It’s  not  as  bad  as  I  think  it  is”  rational  mindset.

Mary  James  is  a  grade  7  teacher  who  is  viewed  by  many  as  an  excellent  teacher.  She  seems  to  enjoy  teaching  adolescents  and  has  many  ways  to  make  the  curriculum  come  alive.  Currently,  Mary  is  not  enjoying  her  teaching  and  is  experiencing  Monday-­‐‑morning-­‐‑itis.  The  problem  is  that  several  of  her  students,  all  boys,  are  taking  advantage  of  her  good  nature.  When  she  asks  one  of  them  to  stop  talking  or  another  to  stop  throwing  paper  in  class,  she  is  greeted  by  opposition  or  delaying  tactics.  From  a teacher  who  had  strong  positive  relationships  with  her  students,  she  is  changing  over  to  one  whom,  because  she  is  yelling,  lecturing  and  scolding  is  becoming  viewed  by  some  of  her  more  difficult  students  as  the  enemy.  Mary’s  mindset  towards  the  students  seems  to  be  making  matters  worse  and  causing  her  severe  emotional  stress:  “Their  behaviour  is  terrible and  awful.  It  is  not  tolerable  to  have  to  put  up  with  it!  They  deserve  to  be  treated  as  they  treat  me!”

Brian  Fordham,  school  principal  of  Shady  Lakes  School  has  begun  noticing  that  he  is  becoming  more  intolerant  of  one  of  his  classroom  teachers,  Mary  James.  The  issue  surrounds  the  way  Mary  is  handling  one  of  her  more  challenging  students,  Jonathon  Singer.  Jonathon  is  routinely  sent  by  Mary  to  his  office  for  any  number  of  major  and  minor  offences  –the  last  one  being  having  drawn  a  face  on  his  maths  work  sheet.  While  Mary  does  a  great  job  with  her  “good”  students,  she  feels  that  when  students  behave  badly,  there  is  nothing  she  can  really  do.  As  Principal,  Brian’s  responsibility  is  to  help  support  Mary  in  learning  new  ways  to  better  manage  her  students,  but  finds  his  frustration  and  occasional  anger  about  Mary’s  approach  to  difficult-­‐‑to-­‐‑teach  students  hard  to  take.  His  mindset  is  leading  to  unprofessionally  high  levels  of  stress:  “She  really  should  be  able  to  teach  all  students  and  handle  the  difficult  ones in  firm  and  positive  ways.  It  is  really  awful  and  unbearable  to  constantly  have  to  deal  with  her.  She  should  probably  consider  leaving  teaching.”

An  important  key  to  staying  relatively  calm  or  being  in  the  middle  of  the  Emotional  Thermometer  when  faced  with  something  that is  bad  but  not  awful,  terrible  and  catastrophic  is  keeping  the  badness  of  the  event  in  perspective.  Again,  our  thinking  at  these  times  will  sound  something  like:  “While  this  is  bad.  It’s  not  that  bad.  It  could  be  a  lot  worse.”

How to Use the Howbadzzat? “Catastrophe” Scale

The  Howbadzzat?  Catastrophe  Scale  (see  page

7)  can  help  you  to  not  to  blow  bad  things  out  of  proportion  and  of  the  importance  of  keeping  things  in  perspective.  The  Howbadzzat?  Catastrophe  scale  developed  for  use  with  for  all  people  including  children  and  young  people  presents  to  a  scale  for  measuring  how  bad  things  are.  Extremely  high  ratings  (90-­‐‑100),  which  can  be  considered  as  catastrophes,  the  “worst”  things  in  the  world,  are  represented  by  an  erupting  volcano,  a  meteor  hits  the  earth,  being  eaten  by  a  shark  and  being  physically  assaulted.  Things  that  are  “very  bad”  include  a  very  serious  car  accident,  being  arrested  and  thrown  in  jail.  Things  that  are  “bad”  include  being  at  the  dentist,  your  computer  crashes,

falling  off  your  bike  and  receiving  a  bad  mark  in  school.  Finally,  things  that  fall  into  the  “a  bit  bad”  include  being  stung  by  a  little  mosquito,  having  a  pimple,  your  ice  cream  falls  on  the  ground  or  a  dog  eats  your  hotdog.

Where  you  place  an  event  on  the  Catastrophe  Scale  determines  how  strong  your  emotions  are  on  the  Emotional  Thermometer.

There  is  little  question  that  Mary  James  is  faced  with  hassles  associated  with  poor  student  classroom  behaviour  that  make  teaching  Science  tough.  And  Brian  Fordham’s  demands  of  leadership  are  increased  when  Mary  James  continuously  sends  to  him  students  to  be  reprimanded.

However,  the  question  is  whether  or  not  they  are  blowing  events  at  work  and  home  out  of  proportion.  Yes,  both  are  confronted  with  events  that  we  would  all  agree  are  “bad”.  However,  it  appears  that  both  are  exaggerating  how  bad  things  really  are.

Once  Mary  and  Brian  place  these  events  on  the  “Catastrophe  Scale”  in  proper  perspective,  their  emotional  reactions  become  more  manageable  and  they  are  more  fully  able  to  use  their  considerable  talents  to  solve  their  practical  problems.  By  incorporating  the  “Catastrophe  Scale”  into  their  mindset  about  life’s  difficulties  and  recognising  that  most  things  in  life  are  hassles  but  not  horrors,  their  emotional  life  will  be  more  settled  and  they  will  experience  heightened  social  and  emotional  well-­‐‑being.  And  the  additional  payoff  is  that  when  children  and  young  people  witness  adults  in  their  lives  not  over-­‐‑reacting  emotionally  to  their  challenging  behaviour,  they  will  be  learning  a  powerful  lesson  for  how  they  can  react  to  their  own  issues  they  may  encounter.

So  remember,  when  you  notice  your  emotional  thermometer  heading  towards  fever  range,  think  to  yourself:  “Howbadzzat?”  And  if  the  answer  is  “It’s  not  as  bad  as  I  think  it  is,”  you  will  have  served  yourself  up  a  powerful  elixir  that  will  help  you  stay  calm  in  the  face  of  adversity.

 The Battle between Positive  and Negative Habits of the Mind

We  now  know  that  we  are  all  born  with  two  opposing  ways  of  thinking;  1.  rational,  and  2.  irrational.  The  degree  to  which  we  become  emotionally  upset  when  adverse  events  happen  is  governed  largely  by  whether  we  are  viewing  and  interpreting  the  event  through  a  rational  or  irrational  lens.  The  accompanying  table  (see  page  8)  will  provide  you  with  an  opportunity  to  determine  whether  you  hold  any  of  the  major  irrational,  negative  Habits  of  the  Mind  that  lead  to  poor  resilience.

Keep  in  mind  that  all  of  us  to  greater  or  lesser  extents  harbour  negative,  Habits  of  the  Mind.  Fortunately,  by  becoming  aware  of  those  that  you  hold,  you  have  an  opportunity  to  make  a  swap  within  your  mind  and  replace  the  negative  Habits  of  the  Mind  with  the  positive  Habits  of  the  Mind  described  in  the  Check  Up  from  Your  Neck  Up  Survey  below.

 Your Check Up from the Neck Up Survey











Instructions:  Place  a  check  mark  in  the  box  that  indicates  which  type  of  thinking  is  most

characteristic  of  you  when  faced  with  adversity.

The  impact  of  the  different  irrational  ways  of  thinking  on  your  emotional  responses  when  faced  with  adversity  is  represented  below.


You  are  prone  to  feeling  down  and



Need  for  Approval  

You  are  prone  to  social  anxiety.


Need  for  Achievement  (Perfectionism)  

You  are  prone  to  performance  anxiety.


I  Cant  Do  It!  

You  are  prone  to  getting  down  and  feeling

helpless  and  hopeless.


I  Cant  Be  Bothered  

You  are  prone  to  anger  when  faced  with  being  required  to  do  unpleasant  tasks;  you  may  tend  to  procrastinate  in  these  areas.


Intolerance  of  Others  

You  are  prone  to  anger  with  people  you

perceive  as  doing  the  wrong  thing.

What to Do to Build Your Resilience at Work (and Home)


Step 1 – Take Stock


To  begin  with,  let’s  focus  on  identifying  those  events  that  occur  at  work  that  lead  you  to  get

extremely  angry,  anxious  or  to  feel  very  down.  You  can  use  the  Emotional  Thermometer  to  rate  the

intensity  of  your  emotions.

On  page  3,  I  have  listed  events  that  commonly  occur  at  work  that  can  trigger  intense  feelings  of  anger,  anxiety,  and  feeling  very  down.  These  events  make  it  harder  to  stay  calm.  Take  a  few  minutes  to  review  the  events  on  the  lists  and  underline  those  events  that  seem  to  be  your  pressure  points.

The  feeling  of  extreme  anger  requires  special  mention.  More  often  than  not,  we  feel  perfectly  justified  in  feeling  very  angry  and,  at  times,  retaliating  because  we  have  been  treated  unfairly  and  inconsiderately  or  we  perceive  injustice.  The  point  to  be  made  about  feeling  very  angry  is  that  extreme  anger  normally  does  not  help  us  function  effectively  in  the  situation  that  triggers  our  anger  and,  in  many  instances,  extreme  anger  causes  us  to  say  and  do  things  that  we  later  regret.

So  when  you  take  stock  of  your  anger,  take  stock  of  your  behaviour  and  the  consequences  of  your  behaviour  on  others  and  on  the  situation.  I  believe  that  a  moderate  level  of  anger  (4  –  6  on  the  Emotional  Thermometer)  is  appropriate  for  situations  that  occur  with people  at  school  as  it  motivates  you  to  take  steps  to  change  the  person’s  behaviour  or  correct  the  injustice.  However,  any  higher  and  we  lose  control  or  ourselves  and  the  situation.

So,  an  important  resilient  thing  to  do  is  to  be  aware  of  how  upset  you  are  and  deciding  to  stay  calm.

You  can  write  down  one  or  more  of  these  adverse  events  on  your  “Individual  Action  Plan.”

Step 2 – Take Control

Once  you  recognise  those  situations  where  you  are  not  staying  calm  or  are  not  calming  down  quickly enough  and  bouncing  back,  you  can  them  decide  to  take  control  of  yourself  and  the  situation  by

using  your  rational  thinking  and  coping  skills.

Let Your Rational Thinking Take Control

Depending  on  the  nature  of  the  adversity  and  your  emotions,  different  rational  ways  of  thinking  can  help  you  to  manage  your  emotions  so  that  you  stay  calm,  calm  down,  control  your  behaviour  and  bounce  back.

Rational  Thinking  for  Dealing  with  Almost  All  Stressful  Events.  There  are  three  rational  ways  you  can  think  about  most  negative  events  that  can  greatly  strengthen  your  resilience.  Let’s  have  a  look  at  them  and  the  three  irrational  ways  of  thinking  that  can  weaken  your  resilience.

  1. 1. It’s  not  as  bad  as  I  think  it  is”  thinking  (I  don’t  blow  bad  things  that  happen  out  of  proportion.)
  2. 2. “I  can  stand  it”  thinking  (I  can  stand  things  I

don’t  like.)

  1. 3. “I  accept  who  I  am  unconditionally  and  that  while  I  prefer  success  and  approval,  I  don’t  need  it  for  self-­‐‑affirmation.”

Ever  hear  yourself  thinking:  This  is  awful,  I  cant  stand  it!  You  might  apply  this  thinking  about  the  behaviour  of  a  student,  fellow  colleague,  school  administrator,  parents  or  the  way  the  school  operates.  When  your  brain  tells  your  body  something  is

awful  and  you  cannot  stand  it,  your  emotions  go  galloping  to  the  top  of  your  Emotional  Thermometer.  To  strengthen  your  resilience  in  the  face  of  adverse  events,  you  will  need  to  remind  yourself  that  things  are  not  as  bad  as  you  think  they  are  –they  could  be  a  lot  worse.  Review  the  section  on  the  Howbadzzat?  Catastrophe  Scale  presented  earlier  in  the  article.  You  should  also  remind  yourself  that  you  have  stood  and  will  continue  to  stand  things  that  are  bad  –the  evidence  is  that  these  events  won’t  kill  you,  you  won’t  faint.

Listen  for  your  “self-­‐‑downing”  thinking.  We  have  now  learned  that  one  type  of  irrational  thinking  that  undermines  people’s  resilience  is  when  they  put  themselves  down  and  take  things  very  personally.  This  negative  way  of  thinking  is  called  “Self-­‐‑Downing”.  In  order  to  rebound  from  criticism  and  setbacks,  you  will  want  to  use  a  more  rational  way  to  think  about  yourself;  namely:

  • “Accepting  Myself”  thinking

(Never  rate  yourself  as  being  hopeless  or a  loser  when  bad  things  happen  to  you.)

To  help  overcome  the  tendency  we  all  sometimes  have  to  put  ourselves  down,  complete  the  top  half  of  the  circle  on  the  next  column  by  filling  in  the  appropriate  spaces  with  pluses  (+’s)  for  the  things  you  do  well  at  work  and  with  minuses  (–’s)  for  the  things  you  do  not  do  so  well.  Then,  complete  the  bottom  half  of

the  circle  by  writing  in  the  things  you  do  well  in  the  rest  of  your  life  as  well  as  the  things  you  like  about  yourself  (+’s).  In  the  (–’s),  write  in  things  you  do  not  do  well  or  you  do  not  like  about  yourself.

To  counter  the  tendency  to  put  yourself  down  when  things  are  not  going  well,  ask  yourself  the  following  questions:

  1. 1. Does  this  bad  situation  (mistake,  failure,  rejection,  criticism)  take  away  my  good  qualities?
  2. 2. Does  it  make  sense  to  conclude  (and  is  it  true?)  that  “I  am  totally  hopeless”  because  of  one  or  more  negative  things  that  have  happened?

The  following  list  provides  examples  of  rational thinking  to  eliminate  feelings  of  inadequacy.

Rational Thinking to Help You Stop Feeling Down

  • I accept who I am, even though I may not like some of my traits and behaviours.
  • There are many things about me that I like and do well

(enumerate them).

  • I have done many things at work successfully in the past, I will succeed in the future.
  • I am intelligent and talented enough to learn what I have to do and how to do it in order to accomplish my goals.
  • My performance at work – perfect or otherwise – does not determine my worth as a person.
  • I am confident that everything will turn out okay given that

I have my goals, know what to do, and work hard.

•  I prefer people to like me, but I can live without their approval.

Rational  Thinking  for  Dealing  with  Performance  and  Social  Pressures  (managing  anxiety).  To  strengthen  resilience  in  situations  where  you  worry  a  lot  (e.g.  speaking  up  in  a  meeting,  trying  a  new  approach),  the  following  two  ways  of  thinking  help  combat  anxiety.

  • “Taking  Risks”  thinking  (It’s  OK  to

make  mistakes  when  trying  new  things.)

  • “Being Independent” thinking  (You  don’t  need  people  to  approve  of  everything  you  say  and  do.  It’s  important  to  say  what  you  think,  feel  and  want.)

Some  of  us  who  have  the  highest  standards  of  professional  excellence  mistakenly  believe  that  because  they  strongly  prefer  to  be  very  successful  and  to  receive  recognition  from  others,  they  need  achievement  and  approval.  Whoops!  You  see  the  problem?  When  we  are  in  situations  where  we  believe  we  need  something  to  happen,  we  tend  to  worry  much  more  that  if  we  just  strongly  prefer  that  something  should  happen.

If  we  believe  we  are  incapable  of  doing  anything  positive  in  a  situation  to  improve  the  situation,  we  will  be  vulnerable  to  feelings  of  helplessness  and  hopeless  and  poor  resilience.  Instead,  adopt  the  optimistic  rather  than  pessimistic  point  of  view  represented  in  the  following  way  of  thinking:

  • “I Can Do  It!”  thinking”  (You’re  more  likely  to  be  successful  than  to  fail  when  you  give  it  your  personal  best.)

The  following  list  provides  examples  of  rational

thinking  that  helps  combat  anxiety.

•  Mistakes and setbacks are inevitable. I will accept myself while disliking my mistakes and setbacks.

Rational Thinking to Reduce Anxiety

  • While it is very desirable to achieve well and be recognised by others, I do not need achievement or recognition to survive and be happy.
  • Mistakes and rejections are inevitable. I will work hard at accepting myself while disliking my mistakes or setbacks.
  • My performance at work –perfect or otherwise- does not determine my worth as a person.
  • Things are rarely as bad, awful, or catastrophic as I imagine them to be.
  • What’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s not the end of the world if I’m not successful or if someone thinks badly of me.

Rational  Thinking  for  Dealing  with  Hard  Yakka  (managing  frustration  and  procrastination).  It  is  vital  that  each  of  us  have  strong  emotional  reserves  to  cope  with  life’s  frustrations.  In  order  to  do  so,  we  need  to  accept  that  hassles  go  with  the  territory  and  that  life  wasn’t  meant  to  be  easy.  The  following  way  of  thinking  will  build  your  resilience  to  face  life’s  hard  yakka.

  • “Working Tough”  thinking  (To  achieve  pleasant  results  in  the  long-­‐‑term,  I  sometimes  have  to  do  unpleasant  things  in  the  short-­‐‑term).

Rational  Thinking  for  Dealing  with  Difficult  People  and  Organisational  Behaviour  (managing  anger).  When  situations  and  people  trigger  strong  anger  in  us,  it  is  because  we  generally  have  the  irrational  expectations  that  people  should  always  act  fairly,  considerately  and  respectfully  in  the  way  I  treat  them.  Now,  while  it  is  strongly  preferable  that  people  do  the  right  thing,  to  demand  that  they  should  all  the  time  flies  in  the  face  of  reality  –that’s  not  the way  people  are.  People  are  fallible  human  being  who  for  different  reasons  are  sometimes  more  interested  in  themselves  than  they  are  others.  The  following  way  of  thinking  helps  build  your  resilience  in  the  face  of  difficult  people  and  difficult  organisations.

  • “Being Tolerant of  Others”  thinking  (When  people  do  the  wrong  thing  or  when  they  are  different  from  you  in  custom  or  appearance,  do  not  condemn  them  as  being  bad  or  inferior.  Give  them  the  right  to  be  wrong)

The  following  list  provides  examples  of  rational thinking  to  combat  unhelpful  levels  of  anger.

Rational Thinking to Help Reduce Your Anger

  • While it is preferable to be treated fairly, kindly and con- siderately, there is no law of the universe that says I must be.
  • People who act unfairly, inconsiderately, or unkindly may deserve to be penalised, but never to be totally condemned as rotten no-goodniks who deserve to be eternally damned.
  • Anger does not help in the long run; it is only temporarily effective at best.
  • Anger towards others frequently prevents me from getting what I want.
  • While it is undesirable to fail to get what I want, it is seldom awful or intolerable.
  • I can cope successfully with unfair people even though I

strongly wish they would act better.

  • I wish others would treat me fairly – but they never have to.
  • I do not need other people to act well – I only prefer it.
  • People act the way they do because that’s the way they act. Tough!
  • I can live and be happy – though not as happy – with my significant other’s fallibility.
  • My supervisor is fallible and will not always act fairly or competently. Tough – that’s the way fallible human beings work!
  • I can put up with this negative and hostile person, though it would be better if he/she acted better.

Use Your Coping Skills to Take Control

When  your  emotions  are  galloping  along  and  you  feel  at  the  end  of  your  tether,  in  addition  to rational  ways  to  think,  there  are  practical  things  you  can  do  to  strengthen  your  resilience.


When  you  are  faced  with  pressures  or  other  adverse  circumstances  and  notice  you  are  getting  uptight,  you  can  learn  to  calm  down  to  by  learning  to  relax.  There  are  a  variety  of  relaxation  techniques  that  you  can  use.  For  example,  the  5-­‐‑3-­‐‑5  Relaxation  Technique  is  a  popular  method.  You  can  teach  yourself  this  method  by  following  the  following  instructions  (you  can  tape  record  them).

“To  begin  with,  rapidly  exhale  all  the  air  from  your  lungs.  Next,  slowly  to  a  count  of  five,  inhale…one…two…three…four…five.  Hold  your  breath  of  air  for  a  slow  count  of  three…one…two…three.  Now  slowly,  very  slowly,  exhale  the  air  to  a  slow  count  of  five…one…two…three…four…five.  You  have  just  completed  one  repetition.  To  continue  to  relax,  breathe  in  slowly  to  a count  of  five,  hold  for  a  count  of  three,  and

again  exhale  to  a  slow  count  of  five.”

Find Someone  to Talk to

When  things  are  not  going  well  and  you’ve  tried  everything  to  remain  positive  and  not  blow  things  out  of  proportion,  sometimes  it  is  good  to  seek  out  someone  who  you  trust  and  who  is  a  good  listener  who  can  help  you  to  mobilise  your  direct  action  strategies  for  dealing  with  the  adversity  and  who  can  help  you  to  keep  the  event  in  perspective  and  not  take  it  personally.

A  trusted  friend  at  school  or  home  is  rarely  too  busy  to  not  have  time.  Brainstorm  people  who  you  could  trust  to  talk  to.  Make  sure  that  you  have  identified  a  source  of  support.  The  worst  thing  is  to  keep  extreme  emotions  pent  up  inside  left  to  explode.

Additional  resilient  things  to  do  include:


  • Find  a  ‘time  out’  area  to  de-­‐‑stress
  • Find  something  fun  to  do  to  distract oneself
  • Exercise  to  combat  fatigue
  • Healthy  eating  to  combat  fatigue
  • Having  a  good  laugh  and  not  taking yourself  or  the  situation  so  seriously


With  emotions  calm  and  resilience  established,  you  are  now  in  a  good  position  to  figure  out  what  you  can  do  to  make  the  problem  go  away.

You can indicate in your Individual Action Plan for strengthening your resilience new rational ways to think and coping skills to take control.

Step 3 – Take Action

Once  you  are  in  control  of  your  emotions  and  behaviour  and  you  are  ready  to  bound  back,  here  are  some  actions  you  can  take  action  to  improve  the  situation  and  make  the  problem  go  away  so  that  you  can  be  stress-­‐‑free!  When  you  take  action  to  confront  the  adverse  situation  of  person  with  difficult  behaviour,  it  is  vital  that  you  employ  your  other  positive  ways  of  thinking,  feeling  and  behaving  using  your  other  personal  capabilities  of  confidence,  persistence,  organisation  and,  especially,  with  difficult  people,  your  getting  along  (be  nice)  skills.

Be Confident

When  confronting  problems  that  are  challenging  and  with  setbacks,  use  your  best  examples  of  verbal  and  non-­‐‑verbal  confident  behaviour.  Make  your  best  effort  to:

  •    Trying  a  new  discipline  plan
  •    Trying  new  and  different  things  at  the

risk  of  failure

  •    In  high  pressure  situations,  express  my


  •    Sharing  with  parents  “issues”  and

problems  I  am  having  with  their  child

  •    Speaking  with  a  clear,  firm  tone  of  voice  when  expressing  my  ideas  in  a  faculty  meeting
  •      Standing  up  for  what  I  believe  when

others  express  a  different  opinion

  •    Speaking  my  mind  even  if  my  opinion  is


  •    Standing  up  for  someone  who  is  being

treated  unfairly

  •    Beginning  a  project  that  no  one  else

thinks  is  valuable,  but  I  do

  •    Taking  on  a  project  that  you  don’t  know

100%  about  and  to  research  it  on  your


  •   Making  suggestions  to  my  superior

about  how  to  improve  programming

  •    Volunteering  to  model  good  practices  in


  •    Asking  for  (and  do  not  feel  intimidated
  1. by) constructive criticism
  •    Trying  to  do  new  things  based  on

constructive  criticism

  •    Implementing  a  new  teaching  strategy
  •    Continuing  doing  something  I  think  is right  even  when  someone  disagrees


Confidence (Non-Verbal)

  •    Maintaining  eye  contact
  •    Standing  up  straight,  tall  with  good

body  posture

  •    Speaking  clearly
  •    Taking  opportunities  to  meet  new people
  •    Dressing  confidently


When  faced  with  time-­‐‑consuming,  boring  tasks,  gear  up  for  the  extra  effort  and  avoid  procrastination.  Make  your  best  effort  to:

  •    Finishing  all  important  tasks  that  have  to be  done
  •    Doing  the  work  nobody  wants  to  do  but needs  to  be  done
  •    Finishing  unpleasant  tasks  early  in  the week

Get Organised

When  faced  with  time/work  load  pressures,  get

yourself  organised.  Make  your  best  effort  to:

  •    Planning  out  lesson  in  advance  to  fit within  time  allocated
  •    Maintaining  sufficient  school  supplies and  materials
  •    Keeping  track  of  important  meetings
  •    Preparing  for  important  meetings
  •    Setting  deadlines  to  complete  tasks
  •    Having  proper  equipment  I  need  for lesson  ready  to  go  before  lesson
  •    Having  a  file  cabinet  with  filing  system to  file  papers
  •    Writing  down  a  list  of  what  needs  to  get done  each  day
  •    Setting  realistic  goals  and  times  by which  they  will  be  met
  •    Recording  important  meetings/events  on a  calendar
  •    Filling  out  a  daily,  hour-­‐‑by-­‐‑hour  “what to  do”  chart

Get Along

When  dealing  with  difficult  people  and  difficult  aspects  of  your  organisation,  use  assertive  and  conflict  resolution  skills.

“Assertiveness”  can  help  all  people  reduce  levels  of  negative  emotions  by  helping  to  change  the  circumstances  that  helped  create  the  emotions  in  the  first  place.  When  you’re  assertive,  you  state  clearly  and  directly  your  honest  feelings  and  wishes.  Rather  than  raising  your  voice  or  mumbling,  you  use  a  warm  and  yet  firm  tone  of  voice.  You  wear  a  relaxed  expression  and  look  directly  at  the  person  who  is  pressuring  you  or  treated  you  with  disrespect.

Conflict  Resolution.  Steps  to  solving  a  conflict  include:

  • Step  1.   Define  the  problem
  • Step 2.  Determine  if  you  are  very  angry;  calm  down  first  if  you  feel  you  are  losing  your  temper
  • Step  3.  Make  a  list  of  different  things  you

can  say  or  do  to  solve  the  conflict.

  • Step 4. Make  a  list  of  the  positive  and  negative  things  that  could  happen  for  each  thing  you  could  do  or  say.
  • Step 5.  Select  the  best  things  to  do  or  so  (the  one  with  the  most  positives  and  least  negatives).
  • Step  6.  Put  the  solution  into  action.
  • Step  7.  Evaluate  whether  the  solution was  successful  in  solving  the  problem.
  • Step 8.  If  you  were  not  successful,  select  another  solution  until  you  find  one  that  works.

Make  your  best  effort  to:

  •    Making  positive  comments  about colleagues
  •    Avoiding  gossip
  •    Providing  constructive  advice  rather than  give  orders
  •    Volunteering  to  work  with  others  on projects
  •    Offering  to  help  others
  •    Being  a  good  listener
  •    Being  flexible  and  not  insisting  it  must be  done  my  way
  •    Being  open  to  learning  new  ideas  from other  people
  •    Relating  positively  to  a  difficult  parent teacher,  student  or  administrator

Strengthening Resilience: Individual  Action Plan

The  accompanying  “Strengthening  Resilience:  Individual  Action  Plan”  will  help  you  to  apply  the  Take  Stock,  Take  Control,  Take  Action  three-­‐‑step  approach  to  strengthening  your  resilience.  Complete  the  form  and  if  you  wish,  discuss  with  another  colleague.  Plan  to  review  your  action  plan  on  a  regular  basis.

Strengthening Resilience: Individual Action Plan

Resilience…being aware of how you feel, maintaining calm…when upset, controlling your negative behaviour (aggressive, passive withdrawal)…when upset, calming down quickly…bounding back to life (work, relationships).


  1. List an adverse situation (challenge, change, difficulty) when you want to be more resilient.


  1. How do you usually feel and behave?


  1. How would you like to feel and behave the next time you are faced with the adversity?


STEP 2. TAKE CONTROL (of self-defeating emotions and behaviour)


  1. New rational ways to think about the adversity


  1. New coping skills to use (seek support, time management, assertiveness, relaxation, time out)


STEP 3. TAKE ACTION (use of Confidence, Persistence, Organisation and Getting Along skills)


  1. Things to do to improve the situation to make the problem go away.


7.         Name of person to act as your “personal coach.”             


In Conclusion


Resilience  is  a  vital  personal  capability  that  determines  not  only  your  own  social-­‐‑emotional  well-­‐‑

being  but  also  the  social-­‐‑emotional  well-­‐‑being  of  those  around  you.  To  be  an  excellent  educator  today

requires  more  than  mastery  of  your  craft.  The  demands  on  educators  today  are

great.  In  order  to  do  your  best  job  possible,  resilience  is  required  to  survive  the  rigors  of  your

profession.  Without  it,  you  are  too  vulnerable.  With  it,  you  are  empowered.



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Michael  E.  Bernard,  Ph.D.  

Professor,  Melbourne  Graduate  School  of  Education,  University  of  Melbourne  Founder,  You  Can  Do  It!  Education  



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