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Resilience As "Ordinary Magic"


What qualities do resilient learners have? What do we know about the power of failure?

What qualities do resilient learners have? What do we know about the power of failure?

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  • Photo is of stephaniedixon, amputee swimmer. Born missing a right leg. I had the opportunity to meet an amazing multi-medalist Paralympian yesterday at PISE. Stephanie Dixon is an incredibly inspiring young woman who has not allowed her disability to impede her dreams. I have such respect and admiration for her and it was a great experience for me. I'm a pretty determined elf as is but... after an experience like that it makes me want to push harder towards my goals. I will do it.Read more about Stephanie read about her record breaking Gold Medal achievement at the Beijing Olympics/
  • What do you need to do? Do you have a friend or adult helper who can help you rethink?
  • 5 minutes of gratitude practice a day dramatically increases life satisfaction
  • “How can I help you today?”“Can I be of service?”
  • “Necessary” suffering is a part of achieving our long term goals (Hallowell)
  • Being able to letting go of old stories of failure is one of the primary qualities of effective emotional self-regulation, and resilience.


  • 1. Resilience As “Ordinary Magic”
    Kirsten Olson, Ed.D.
    Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Event
    April 23, 2010
  • 2. Resilience
    “It’s like a fire that warms you, and warms other people.”
  • 3. It’s ordinary magic!
  • 4. What do you already know?
  • 5. Power and love of learningat the center of my life
  • 6. Joyful Learning Experience
    Kirsten doing Little House on the Prairie
  • 7.
  • 8. Trapped in an old fashioned institution
    “Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed… ”
    -Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1970
  • 9. Designed to sort and track kids
  • 10. Truncated Ideas About Ability In School
    • Human ability is enormously plastic, develops over the lifespan
  • Define Learning As “Product”
    • Overemphasis on low-level cognitive tasks
    • 11. “Rigor” still about memorization
    • 12. Inability to adapt to individual learners
    • 13. Frontal, “monolithic teaching” (Christensen,2008)
  • “If you had to design an environment that was going to most effectively turn off the human brain, it would be the contemporary classroom.”
    -John Medina, Brain Rules
  • 14. Effect of “schoolishness” on manylearners
  • 15. “I’m bored in school most of the time. Photography is the one time when I’m really interested.”
  • 16. “There was always something mechanical about school, a mold I never fit into, never quite understood. Although I knew inside that my writing was powerful and artistic, I was unwilling to make myself vulnerable to someone else’s critique. The years of frustration and failures had taken a toll on my confidence and I found myself unable to trust my own ability in the classroom.”
  • 17. “I’m one taco short of a combination platter.”
  • 18. “ I told my teacher I wanted to go to college. He said I’d be pregnant and drop out in two years.”
  • 19. “I’m really good at school, but I’m very secretive about making mistakes. I always want to be right, and have the right answer. Otherwise, people think you are dumb.”
  • 20. “School’s a game, and I can never stop running. I never rest. I’m always jumping the next hurdle, because that’s what people say I should do. I’m ‘gifted.’”
  • 21. “Crazy. Lazy. I believed I was broken.”
  • 22. How did they learn to be great learners?
    What makes people resilient in school?
  • 23. Angela Duckworth
    GRIT study
    Cadets at West point
    “Beast Barracks” summer
  • 24. Cadets were asked…
    What is your attitude towards adversity?
    “Setbacks don’t discourage me.”
    “I know I can learn from mistakes.”
  • 25. Ambition
  • 26. Self Discipline
  • 27. Persistence
  • 28. Matter a lot more than ability
    “Even generously estimated, ability accounts for only 50% of achievement.”
    -Angela Duckworth
  • 29. “At least 80% of what you try to do is not going to turn out as you expected.”
    -SrikumarRao, author of Happiness at Work
    That’s either a lot of failure, or an opportunity to show grit and resilience
  • 30. Think about your own life…
    When have you shown “grit”?
    When have you not?
    What do the elements of grit look like for you?
    Share at your tables…
  • 31. “Grit”
    Self Discipline
  • 32.
  • 33. Effort vs. Ability
    “I started to see mistakes as my friend.”
  • 34. Become an “effort” theorist
    Human ability grows over the lifespan
    Mindset, by Carol Dweck (2006)
  • 35.
  • 36.
  • 37. A strengths-based approach to yourself, and others
  • 38. Letting go of negative emotions,“flipping the script”
  • 39.
  • 40. Not letting the institution define you, tell you what you are good for
    “Adaptive distancing”
    Author of your own mind
  • 41. Passion
  • 42. How does this relate to resiliency?
    Definition: Resilience is the capacity to “bounce back” even after significant trauma, failure, or loss of resources
    What does your own “grit” tell you about resiliency?
  • 43. What we used to think about resilience
    Only a “lucky few” had it
    Couldn’t really be defined
    It was inborn
  • 44. By studying the stories of those who show great resilience…
    Resilience can be taught
    Resilience is reinforced by those you surround yourself with
    Resilience can be practiced…
  • 45. Those who are resilient tend to have 4 personal strengths…
    Connectedness matters
    Good reframers
    Independence, autonomy
    Sense of purpose
  • 46.
  • 47. A dead end or an invitation?
  • 48.
  • 49.
  • 50. Let’s Practice!
    Your friend says, “I just messed up on a test. I’m so stupid…”
    What do you say?
    What’s the message you are giving to yourself, too?
  • 51. Reframing, problem solving
    When you say to yourself…
    “There is no way out of this situation. It just can’t be fixed…”
  • 52. Practicing Gratitude
    “My life sucks. It’s awful.”
    What do you say?
  • 53. Appreciate others
    “That kid always does better on tests than me.”
    “She looks prettier than me.”
    “He always sounds smarter in class discussions.”
    How do you help yourself?
  • 54. Take care of other people
    “I’m in such a bad mood today.”
    How do you get out of yourself?
  • 55. What’s your sense of purpose?
    “This AP American history course really blows.”
    “Why do we have to learn the subjunctive in Spanish?”
    What do you say to yourself?
  • 56. Practice letting go
    “I’m not good at talking with girls. Girls hate me.”
    “My phys ed teacher was an abusive jerk. I hate sports.”
  • 57. Kirsten’s recipe(s) for resilience in learning!
    Broad and deep
    Have a cheer squad
  • 58. In Life
    Live with zest!
    Enjoy others
    Use your body
    Move out of “me”
    Nurture your sense of purpose
    Practice gratitude
  • 59. For parents
  • 60. Mentors
  • 61. Don’t listen to the “negativizing” brain
  • 62. You are fabulous!
  • 63. Resilience as “ordinary magic”
    “Resilience is ordinary magic that can be increased not only by fixing problems but also by building up personal resources in good times. We can build good habits, discover personal strengths, enhance relationships, and become more aware of the particular personal assets that help us cope.”
    -Kathryn Britton, University of Maryland