Specific to education, the term resilience refers to the capacity of a child to cope with, or successfully adapt to acute and/or chronic adversity that is seen as a major threat to their educational development. Resilience, in other words, is about students achieving educational outcomes despite experiencing life-threatening experiences or being chronically exposed to negative living circumstances. Resilience is not a static characteristic of a child, however, but instead refers to the nature of the relationship between a child and the social and physical environment. A child who shows resilience in one context at one time may not show the same resilience in another context or at another time.
Education and resilience have a strong reciprocal relationship: participation in education promotes children's resilience, and resilient children are more likely to participate in and benefit from education. Strong cognitive competencies, such as problem-solving abilities, are key components of resilience that are strengthened by quality education. Conversely, children’s social and emotional competence informs what and how much children are able to learn in education settings as well as their risks of low performance and dropping out of school.
At the center, we focus on addressing children’s academic resilience by focusing on three building blocks:
Basic needs: Core requirements for children’s healthy development include appropriate housing, nutritious food, clean water, personal hygiene, health care and physical safety and security. These are the universal survival needs of children. Students can only focus on higher-order tasks such as learning when their basic needs are met.
Nurturing relationships: Children develop, grow and thrive through relationships. As Luthar (2006) suggests, “resilience rests, fundamentally, on relationships. The desire to belong is a basic human need, and positive connections with others lie at the very core of psychological development; strong, supportive relationships are critical for achieving and sustaining resilient adaptation” (p. 780).
Core capabilities and competencies: It is widely recognized that children’s ability to succeed in school is not limited to their knowledge of content or their academic skills. Research suggests that children’s ability to learn and succeed in educational settings is also contingent on their ability to understand and manage emotions, feel and show empathy for others, and establish and maintain positive relationships--their social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL acknowledges that learning is a social process, and schools are social environments where social emotional competencies are important for students to be able to manage interactions with peers and teachers and manage their emotions to facilitate and not hinder their own learning.