Well, lovely humans, our time at Cohort 21, season 11, has drawn to a close. It’s been almost a week since our final face-to-face and, although I’ve been sick, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I experienced this year in this powerful community.

As daunting as starting this journey seemed when we first embarked back in October, the warmth of the cohort community quickly engulfed me and allowed me the space and support to think about my practice and my school, develop some questions, hone those questions into one ultimate “Why might we…” question, and begin an action plan. The beauty of the whole experience is that, as much as that was my experience and journey, it’s not guaranteed to be anyone else’s experience and journey.

The “How might we…” question I ultimately boiled down to is:

How might we help students understand, recognize, and grow grit/resilience from the inside out? 

This question propelled me and inspired me and with it, I began to engage my students. I focused on my grade 11 students, as that was the group I recognized as needing the most resilience. This came from the fact that they were the group that had not spent a full-on year in high school until this year. Even last year, which was nearly normal, had bouts of online learning as Covid numbers surged and didn’t have the full-throttle experiences of all the required co-curricular commitments.

I started with a basic question in class back in late January: what is resilience? This was a powerful question I soon found out as some of my students had absolutely no idea what it meant, but knew that they were expected to have it. How many times does an adult tell a teenager that they should have something or do something and the teenager nods along, and the adult is oblivious to the fact that the teenager has no idea what they’re talking about?

From here classroom discussions went in all directions: do you have resilience? do you lack resilience? does it show up in different ways in different parts of your life? how do you get resilience? can you grow resilience? what is a coping mechanism? what is a positive vs. a negative coping mechanism?

The conversations were beautiful and fulsome. Students were open and honest, I was transparent about why we were discussing this topic and what research I was doing to learn more and what practices I was participating in to try and grow my own resilience. Students respected our conversations and the space they happened in. None of them took on the implied ask of trying to build up their own resilience, but many of them reflected on their own resilience much more than they had previously. They would come to class and declare “I used this method that I typically use in my sports practice to overcome a hard bio test – is that what developing resilience is like?”

I have never been so inspired by a group of students in my life. Then the conversations fell by the wayside as class content took precedence and long breaks were rampant in our calendar.

My big takeaway is that, when you’re open and honest with students, they’ll be open and honest with you. In the most authentic and surprising ways. And that a seed has been planted in my mind about creating a bigger conversation about resilience and what that could look like for our students.

Thank you Cohort 21 for helping me follow this question I had. It’s led to some really wonderful things.

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