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Building resilience as a new teacher

Posted by Hlengiwe Zwane on 22 July 2021 11:20 AM SAST
Hlengiwe Zwane photo

Article by Anna Mae Tempus

Resilience is necessary for any young teacher setting out into the field for the first time. It is vital that new teachers have the  tools, equipment and strategies for the classroom.

When tension rises in a class whether it stems from a conflict between students or miscommunication between the teacher and the class, the stress can be palpable. Try a strategy called “Roses and Thorns” as both a preventative measure and a way to encourage productive conflict resolution and self-advocacy.

Roses and thorns : 
Have students begin by writing down their positive moments (“roses”) and negative ones (“thorns”) from the week.

After they write, facilitate a discussion, starting with the thorns. Students often share issues from other classes or their lifeatt home, or in-class challenges. Encourage their classmates to pose thoughtful questions, make empathetic comments, or offer solutions to manageable problems. Make notes to check in on certain students or send appropriate emails to counselors or guardians. As students become more comfortable with these discussions, take a backseat.

Sometimes try coming up with a solution, if the class feels that a concept was not thoroughly taught, or that you didn’t allow enough time on a project. Listen to their concerns carefully, and prompt them to advocate for appropriate solutions. While you may not always be able to give them exactly what they ask for, try to address their concerns and find a way to move forward.

When two students have an issue or a conflict,  generally try to enourage independence by leaving it up to them to work it out. However, if it is a question of student "A" feeling uncomfortable with something student "B" said, check in with "A" privately a few times to make sure that they feel safe and that they’re taking steps toward resolving things with "B". Some problems call for a mediation session between yourself and the students or a school counselor and the students.

Always end with roses, positive moments, from the week, both in class and out. The sharing of triumphs of their competitive teams, an expected good grade, or the anticipation of a weekend road trip allows them to bounce back from the stress of the week and the challenges students have faced.

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