Faculty resilience

Attribution GettyImages: Five oak trees growing among fields, low section

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places. -Ernest Hemingway

As we near the end of this workshop, in the service of cultivating and tending the gardens of our own well-being, let's take a few moments to reflect on our profession. Teaching is anything but easy. We've chosen a career that requires us to keep current with our disciplines, so accordingly, we need to be lifelong learners. That's the content mastery aspect of teaching. But, a teaching career is also a service profession. By nature, service professionals work with other people, which by nature requires strength, humility, focus, balance...and great flexibility as we navigate and lead our classroom communities. That's the "presence" or, interpersonal process aspect of mastery. Every classroom community is unique. Being present in some communities may lead us to having joyful experiences of "flow" and deep engagement with our students - and with ourselves. Others communities may pose significant challenges and even hardship, and lead us to question ourselves. Let's face it...we're all human. No one of us is immune to adversity, loss, grief, and change, whether welcome or not, is a constant. The question isn't whether our classrooms (and lives) will involve experiences of adversity, but rather, the question is how we will address and cope with it when it occurs. Preventive endeavors include knowing ourselves - our strengths, thresholds, "pet peeves" and tolerance levels, constructing a planful syllabus that balances faculty and student rights, and reflects college policies. Prevention is also having the strength to reach out and consult whenever support would be helpful.

But, prevention is also individual. Since teaching by nature is a dynamic process that requires adaptation and the address of challenge, self-care is especially important. The concept of resilience fits well here. What does it mean to be a resilient faculty member? As we're all unique individuals, it's not possible to fit us all within a single description. But, there are some unified themes amongst us. Consider that psychological resilience involves the ability to recover and transform adversity into strength. What does that look like for you? How have you successfully transformed hardships in your life? From a psychological lens, resilience isn't just about these challenges, but also about how we perceive, address, and make meaning of these kinds of circumstances. Everyone experiences stress. But, stress in and of itself is a neutral concept. Stress can be connected with positive events. It can also act to motivate us. Take some time to identify your personal stressors, and consider your style of coping with psychological stress. Is it working for you? Are there additional measures you could take to improve the quality of your life? If so...keep reading. A few recommendations are listed here, and it can be helpful to consult with or invite other trusted individuals in your life who may possess expertise in stress management. This can include your primary care physician, a psychologist or other mental health care professional, or a spiritual or religious leader, just to name a few. 

Some elements of the landscape of stress, challenge and adversity that may come along with the job described by some faculty colleagues include:

Faculty members have also cited that the following are helpful "antidotes" that can serve to promote resilience and bolster well-being: