Adaptation and Resiliency

“Resiliency is the ability to spring back from and successfully adapt to adversity.” Nan Henderson, author of Resiliency in Action: Practical Ideas for Overcoming Risks and Building Strengths in Youth, Families, and Communities.



I am lucky to be able to teach Honors program students at Southern about learning through service to others and an important part of our class looks at developing leadership skills. While we work building a pollinator garden, taking down invasive species to increase access to green space, etc. we also reflect on the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Leadership Skills. This is a fun article that illustrates them, and the student’s experience is similar to one that my daughter had during her NOLS Expedition to New Zealand in 2015. https://blog.nols.edu/2017/02/22/tolerance-for-uncertainty-adversity


While I have determined that I don’t have a need to sleep in a soaking wet sleeping bag for days on end, I have learned over the past year and a half that I am pretty comfortable with uncertainty and adversity. Early on in the pandemic, I participated in a series of workshops which encouraged us to learn how to make decisions without all of the information available. This is a skill that our mentees have been developing too. Some of them have really suffered from the losses due to the pandemic, and some of them are adapting, even thriving.


If you find a natural time, I encourage you to chat with your mentees to find upsides to their situations where they can. Research shows that kids who grow up in tough situations have skills that kids with helicopter parents don’t. These skills don’t always translate into strengths that schools appreciate, but they can make for stronger, more capable kids in the end. A few years ago, one of our kids left Adams to go pick up something at CVS that he needed. Rather than losing his cool, Bob Loizeaux, the former Assistant Principal, recognized that this boy could navigate all around Guilford independently because he couldn’t depend on his parent to take care of him. He said to the boy, “I know YOU can get over to CVS and back, but not all of our students can, so we need to have the rule in place that everyone has to stay on school grounds to keep everyone safe.” Our population of kids has a resume of skills that may include negotiating skills, independence, ability to read people, resilience . . . What else do you see?





Lisa Ott

December 2021



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