Literature Reviewed for Leaders: Micro Resilience

Literature Reviewed for Leaders: Micro Resilience

School leaders are busy people. Our days are full. The pressure is great. The rewards are even greater.
Professional reading does not always make it into our daily routines. Leaders who are serious about continual growth lament the fact that they cannot read enough of the best stuff out there.
I want to give you the skinny on the professional reading that I am doing so that you can 1) Identify top priority ‘next-reads’  2) gain exposure to a wider selection of helpful texts and 3) Save time and money by passing on books that do not connect in the moment.

Here’s the ‘skinny':

The 411: Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive, and Energy. Bonnie St. John and Allen P. Haines, Center Street Publishing, New York, 2017.

My Tweet: To be the best leaders we can, we need strategies for interrupting our own fight/ flight/ freeze responses. #MicroResilience offers how-to’s that may transform your days at school. #thosekidsareOURKIDS @bonniestjohn

A Leader’s Take:  Our schools are multi-dimensional spaces with simultaneous demands on our presence and time.  This book does two things: 1) Convince you that multi-tasking is not the goal. We perform at high levels when our brains are dialed in on one thing and we are fully present. 2) Suggests concrete ways that you can refocus our brains, release stress, and build resilience. If you want win more daily battles with mental exhaustion and perform at higher levels, this text holds the keys!

One Take-Away:  I see this as a practical guide to trauma-informed leadership. Instead of being ruled by the primitive stress-response systems of our bodies, we have the ability to interrupt and reset our regulatory systems. “The good news is that we can rewire ourselves and essentially upgrade our human operating system to cope with the challenges we face” (90).

Your Next Move: Make the order. Dive in. Take on just one practice!

It Gets: 5 out of 5 apples.

When the Cable Guy Reminds You of Your Purpose

When the Cable Guy Reminds You of Your Purpose

As a first year teacher, I received a gargantuan assignment. Teach reading to 9th graders who are multiple grade-levels behind. Most were like 6 years below grade level (3rd grade readers). Because they were so behind, we had them in our classes for nearly half the school day. We taught them explicit reading strategies with high-interest text, and saw some fantastic growth.

Some of the students, though, were too beaten down by their own previous failures to try very hard. Several had such well developed avoidance tactics, that they rarely had to struggle with text. Some were just plain hard to deal with. A few, in my honest and deflated moments, I thought were virtually doomed. Without literacy skills or grit, I feared the world would eventually just swallow them up.

V topped that list. V did some crazy things in my classroom to avoid work. One day, I asked him to leave the classroom, but he refused. As I walked towards him, he would run. He even hopped a few rows to stay away and incite a game of chase. His classmates were thrilled, elated by his courage to buck structure and authority. For a moment, he was a star. He just laughed when I called security to come get him.

V appeared completely apathetic when it came to school work. And I wanted to get to the bottom of the “why.

Being an ambitious, driven, concerned young teacher, I drove to his home for an official home visit. Perhaps I would discover new ways to reach this struggling student of mine. What I discovered, though, was less help and more empathy. Here’s why: His grandmother lay in the one bedroom apartment, on a hospital bed, adjacent the living room window. She we hurting, even moaning, and clearly in her last days. V’s father was angry with his son but lacked the English skills to communicate real concerns or explanation for his sons behavior. In a Cambodian dialect I couldn’t make sense of, he screamed at Voungtha, shaming him in my presence. Voungtha’s smirk from class was a world away.

“Where would he do his homework even if he wanted to?” I thought.
“Please encourage V to try hard in my class,” I said.
“What will become of this kid?” I wondered.
“His future is dim.” I projected.

***********************************************
It’s official now: the world did not swallow V up.

In fact, when my DSL installation technician arrived at my doorstep, he looked strikingly familiar. Within moments, I placed him. And for the next half hour, I questioned and praised him.

He made it.
V lives down the block for me and supports a family, including two young kids. He works hard during the day and counts it a privilege to have a job. Many of his friends don’t. He finished school on time (somehow) after being kicked out of our high school in two separate years.
He beat the odds.

That visit was good for my soul.
It reminded me that a) Growth and maturation is a process, often over years and years. b) I am no savior. I couldn’t even keep him in class. c) Moments of grace like these, are a gift. I am savoring it even now.