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Building Resiliency

Stretching Your Learning Edges
By Jennifer Abrams
Building Resiliency

I have said it before, collaboration is one of the most frequently used words in education and, in some ways, the least taught. Our ability to collaborate and our willingness to engage respectfully with one another matter for the health of the school and the collective well-being of all within it. This article concludes my series on ways we can individually develop ourselves to become an even better teammate to others.

In previous articles, I focused on the key concepts of engaging with reciprocity (being respectful to all and building our skillset to do so) as well as knowing our identit(ies) - to better know your assumptions, blind spots, values, and beliefs and how they impact our work with others, suspending certainty, maintaining an open mind; listening without defensiveness to another point of view and taking responsibility, owning your language and behavior during interactions with yourself and others. Building this type of skill set is in service to being “good company” to your teammates and supporting the vision and mission of the team.

To continue on the journey of growing (up) and becoming an even more effective professional also requires another skill set: the ability to build resiliency so you are emotionally and psychologically healthy for yourself and for others.

Building Resiliency

What It Is

Why It Matters

What It Looks Like/Sounds Like

The strength and ability to respond to stressful situations, change, disappointment, and loss

in solution-focused conversations.


Improves your ability to accept and manage uncomfortable emotions.

Helps your ability to influence the work environment in a more positive way.

Essential to sustaining a productive, compassionate work environment for all.

Sustains you in deeper and strenuous work.

Having time, space, ability, and opportunity to acknowledge difficulties, loss, and disappointment with yourself and others.

Recognizing that self-care is inextricably related to team care.

Acknowledging that your sphere of control may not be large but your sphere of influence is greater than you imagine.

Here are two key concepts that shape the facet of building resiliency:


Have you entered a roomful of people and felt a weird feeling in the air or sat through a meeting thick with tension? Your energy can positively or negatively impact the group. Bioenergetics research demonstrates that one form of algae can absorb energy from other plants (Kruse, 2012). Much like that, people’s energy can ooze out intentionally or unintentionally and affect others.

For your own and your school’s health, it’s important to learn to manage your energy and recover quickly. You can build resolve, strength, and stamina to manage the energy and volatility that comes with your work. Find solutions in meditation, coursework on anger management, physical exercise, healthy eating, therapeutic support, or other assistance.


Margaret J. Wheatley, founder of Warriors for the Human Spirit, has a saying for those who get frustrated and disappointed when they aren’t acknowledged, and their good work appears to be unappreciated: “Don’t expect applause.” We cannot work for the kudos or accolades. Do the work you are meant to and you feel is the right work for the team and move forward. A lot of hurt feelings arise when we expect others will see us and reward our good work. Your contributions will often go unnoticed, and when they do, you have a choice. Do you know internally that you did well and therefore move forward to your next action, or do you blame and get angry at those who didn’t clap? Building your resiliency means you build up your inner compass of excellence and rightness and do what you feel is right, even if no one is looking.

Questions to ask yourself as you work on building resiliency:

How do I cope with unexpected chaos and high-anxiety situations? How can I recognize and discharge negative energy?

Can I soothe myself when I am dismissed, diminished, challenged, or ignored?

In moments of discomfort, can I continue to let in information? Can I make informed, nonreactive choices and keep myself centered?

Can I identify my purpose, and do I use it to ground and center myself?

What can I tell myself in order to shift my mindset during challenges to turn them into learning moments?

Developing resiliency does not mean being tough, powering through, or ignoring pain. It is instead the ability to sit with and work through challenges and to adapt and change to the vicissitudes life inevitably brings our way. When children are small, we sometimes allow them to fall without swooping in, so when they get up, they see they are capable of recovering. In our adult lives, we also “fall down.” Life is full of falling and full of recovery. How do we recover more quickly and with more ease? Knowing we are always works in progress and stretching at our learning edges helps us with bouncing back, which in turn helps us be our best, and the best teammate we can be.


Formerly a high school English teacher and a new teacher coach, Jennifer Abrams is currently a communications consultant who focuses on adult to adult communication in schools. Her publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicate, Collaborate and Create Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked - the Whos, Whens and What Ifs and Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her newest book is Stretching Your Learning Edges: Growing (Up) at Work.

Internationally, Jennifer presented at PTC, TTC, EARCOS, NESA, ECIS, AISA, AMISA, CEESA, and Tri-Association conferences, and at schools across Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and North America. More about Jennifer’s work can be found at her website,

Twitter: @jenniferabrams

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