Cultivating resilience…

re·sil·ience\ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\ noun: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful after misfortune or disruptive change 

Since the inception of this blog in 2010 I have written more than 300 posts that have focused on ideas and practices related to teaching, school leadership, teamwork, professional learning, and cultures of continuous improvement.

While these topics remain important, I have basically said what I have to say about them, at least for the time being.

Recently, I have been been thinking about whether American values and this country’s political and civic institutions, including public education as we know it, are sufficiently robust to effectively respond to the unprecedented and unpredictable challenges they are likely to endure in coming years.

That led me to reflect on people and institutions that encounter adversity but are somehow strengthened through their experiences, emerging from them with newfound capacities and resourcefulness.

Such resilience can be found in people of all ages and walks of life and in organizations that serve many different purposes.

For the foreseeable future I will use this blog to seek a better understanding of individual and collective resilience and the ways in which it can be cultivated and applied in our personal and professional lives and in civic engagement.

As always, I look forward to your comments….

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8 Responses to “Cultivating resilience…”


  1. 1 Debra Lane January 4, 2017 at 8:22 am

    This blog post is eloquent this morning and filled my own soul. Thank you for capturing your thoughts which parallel mine in your articulate words.

  2. 3 Robert Jackson January 4, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Thanks for this morning’s post, Dennis. Resilience, as I learned from listening to Dr. Ken Leithwood, is part of three sided coin. The other two sides are optimism and self-efficacy. If we as educational leaders possess self-efficacy and believe we can accomplish a goal or task then it naturally includes optimism. When the pursuit of that goal hits roadblocks and distractors then we respond with resilience in pursuit of that goal. The three are very closely related and interdependent and crucial to enacting successful leadership practices. That is why they are part of the Ontario Leadership Framework here in Ontario, Canada. My thoughts are with you, neighbour, in the years ahead as you exercise your self-efficacy, optimism and resilience.

    • 4 Dennis Sparks January 4, 2017 at 11:37 am

      Thanks for your comment, Robert. As I have thought about resilience I have wondered if it is part of a larger organizer or whether it serves as an organizer for other concepts or skills. For example, are resilient people more optimistic and efficacious because of what they learned as a result of their difficulties? Or, as Leithwood suggests, is resilience an equal among related concepts? I appreciate you stimulating my thinking, and hopefully that of readers, about these distinctions…

  3. 5 Judi Gottschalk January 5, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Your blog led me to think about resilience and collective efficacy as it relates to the national crisis of teacher shortage. As leaders, how can we steer our organizations to build cultures that build resilent teachers and collectively pull together with children at the center. What is the connection between resilience and teachers that can go the distance under increasingly difficult and challenging circumstances? How do we focus on a culture of collective efficacy and embrace teachers to do the same? Thank you for launching a consciousness about this critical concept.

    • 6 Dennis Sparks January 6, 2017 at 6:36 am

      There are powerful forces lined up against public education and public school teachers. They have deep pockets and a long view. In addition to well-focused political action, it is essential that school administrators and teacher leaders create school cultures that energize everyone in the school community and focus that energy on the learning and well being of all students. Previous posts and future ones will explore how that can be done. I appreciate your comment, Judi.

  4. 7 Chris Abbott January 9, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Dennis, wonderful article and thoughts. I agree with your position regarding resilience. Unfortunately, both leaders and bosses have resilience. Society fails to develop individuals who are content with themselves. Only when a person sheds themselves of ego, anger, jealousy and impatience will they have the mindset to be a good leader. How can someone empower partners when an ego will want the accolades? How can an individual who is not happy with themselves work for the benefit of the aggregate instead of themselves? A leader works on a basis of mutual respect, collaboration and sensitivity. If a person cannot employ those tactics they are nothing more than a boss.
    Bernie Sanders is a leader, Donald Trump is a boss, both are by definition resilient.

    • 8 Dennis Sparks January 10, 2017 at 9:13 am

      Your comment has stimulated my thinking about the important issues you raise, Chris.

      I appreciate you pointing out the danger of ego and the arrogance it breeds and your emphasis on the importance of mutual respect, collaboration, and sensitivity.

      You make a distinction between being a boss and a leader. I think of a boss as the person to whom we are immediately responsible in our work. The boss may or may not be a leader. Almost certainly, all leaders are bosses, but not all bosses are leaders. At least that’s how I think about it.

      Another issue comes to mind: Are resilient people always well intentioned or can they deliberately do harm in achieving their ends?

      Defining resilience as “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful after misfortune or disruptive change” begs the question: What is “success”?

      In my view success means creating a better world by combining resilience with moral purpose (plus leadership attributes that I will discuss in future posts).

      I am curious what readers think about these issues.


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