Cultivating Resilient Mindsets: 5 Actions for School Teams

When we talk about resiliency, it’s usually through the lens of our students. However, it’s important to nurture resiliency among our teachers, staff, and ourselves, too. Here’s how to build more resilient school teams.
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Blog date
8/8/23
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If you had to pick a trait that’s been a foundational part of your school over the past few years, we’re willing to bet it’s resiliency.

Resiliency was key during the pandemic. As educators, we weren’t able to alter our circumstances or shield ourselves from the discomfort and mental health challenges the pandemic presented. So instead, we learned to help our students, families, and each other navigate a completely new world in our school systems. And through our situation, we collectively developed the determination needed to power through the tough times.

Even though we’re out of the thick of the pandemic, we know the truth: there will always be situations where the ability to manage adversity and thrive in the face of obstacles will be essential. 

Even though we’re out of the thick of the pandemic, we know the truth: there will always be situations where the ability to manage adversity and thrive in the face of obstacles will be essential. 

While there’s plenty we can do to cultivate our individual resiliency skills, it’s in teamwork where resiliency really thrives. Resilient teams bounce back faster from challenges, adapt to new ways of working to create efficiencies, and maintain a strong sense of teamwork and cooperation even as things shift around them.

As we approach a new school year, there’s no better time to build resilient schools than by helping the teams within your school develop a team mindset with resiliency. In our final installment of our Restore. Retool. Recommit. annual summer series, we’ve highlighted a few ways to help your school’s teams collaborate and stay resilient for whatever comes their way in the year ahead. 

Looking for more resources to ensure the upcoming school year is a success? Make sure to check out our full Restore. Retool. Recommit. Summer 2023 series.

Understand the true definition of “resiliency” 

Sometimes, resiliency is misunderstood as the ability to bounce back instantly from any difficulties—or roll with all the punches, so to speak, no matter how severe. But that’s not quite it. Resilient leadership is the act of demonstrating self-awareness, ongoing learning, and resolve in the service of continuous improvement.

If there are systemic challenges or conditions causing your team stress and overwhelm, for example, asking them to be “resilient” might have the opposite effect—leading to frustration and burnout. 

To avoid this, encourage your team to be honest with you—and one another—about their level of burnout or change fatigue. If there are unnecessary stressors, consider what you can do as a school leader to deprioritize or de-implement initiatives that might be creating minimal benefits for your students, but adding maximum stress to your team. 

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Continue to promote psychological safety 

Psychological safety—the idea that a teacher or staff member won’t be punished when they make a mistake or speak up with ideas, questions, and concerns—is a critical part of building resilience within high-performing school teams

When people have a sense of belonging within a group, there’s a better chance that everyone on the team learns from one another, contributes new and valuable ideas, and challenges the status quo.

When people have a sense of belonging within a group, there’s a better chance that everyone on the team learns from one another, contributes new and valuable ideas, and challenges the status quo.

School leaders have the opportunity to increase the feeling of psychological safety within their school teams and their broader school culture. Being honest about your professional mistakes and your lessons learned, asking for feedback on your own leadership, and giving your teams plenty of “Candor Breaks”—the moments where you encourage team members to share their thoughts and feelings—are all ways to make your teachers and staff feel more comfortable.

Cultivate a “resiliency mindset”

As wonderful as it would be to take a “resiliency vitamin” and instantly overcome challenges, the truth is that it takes consistent time and effort. And growing your resilience starts with your mindset.

Here are a few ways you can help your team members cultivate their own resilience mindsets:

  • Practice self-awareness: Ask your team to check in with their thoughts, emotions, and even how their bodies feel as they encounter stress. Being mindful of these cues can help make those feelings easier to deal with and strengthen emotional resilience.
  • Develop connections with others: Strong relationships are a fundamental human need—and when team members have those strong connections, they’re able to lean on each other when times are challenging.
  • Zero in on purpose: Remind your team of their collective purpose and what you want to achieve together as a school community. 
  • Understand what you can control: There are plenty of situations and happenings that your team won’t be able to control—but there is a lot within our control that we often forget. Encourage your team to think about their own self-efficacy. 

Balance resilience with meaning, purpose, and growth

Resilience has been incredibly important over these past few years, and it’s served us well. It’s also important to balance our resiliency with actions that are just as critical—bringing joy back into our schools and creating room for growth in our work as educators.

It’s also important to balance our resiliency with actions that are just as critical—bringing joy back into our schools and creating room for growth in our work as educators.

Lade Akande, an educator at University High School in Carmel, Indiana, started to shift her own thinking about resilience with a little help from her students. She asked her students to define “resilience” and “growth” and how those actions intersected during the pandemic.

Her students’ comments taught her that resiliency is not just about surviving—it’s also about learning to thrive after survival. It’s just as important to take the time and space to grow as a result of what we’ve learned. The meaning and purpose we derive from our experiences can act as its own kind of strength, one that helps us to keep going when things get challenging. 


Restore. Retool. Recommit.

We have one more set of curated resources to help you make this upcoming school year the best year yet, focused on the topic of resiliency for both yourself and your teams:

Read On:

Resilient Educator

This website—appropriately titled!—contains a treasure trove of great resources for educators, everything from professional development resources and self-care suggestions to pieces that give a much-needed dose of levity. 

Don’t Just Survive, Thrive: A Teacher’s Guide to Fostering Resilience, Preventing Burnout, and Nurturing Your Love for Teaching by SaraJane Herrbolt

While this just-released book is written primarily with teachers in mind, school leaders and staff members will be able to glean countless insights from Herrbolt’s sustainable blueprint for becoming “unshakeable at school.” 

Listen In:

Resilient Leadership Podcast with Bridgette Theurer and Irvine Nugent

This podcast is aimed at helping leaders from all walks of life and careers lead with a greater sense of calm, clarity, and conviction—even when times are strange. Co-hosted by two authors, resilient leadership coaches, and trainers, you’ll find refreshing and new insights into the intersection of leadership and life. 

For more resources and effective strategies, explore our full series: How Education Leaders Can Restore. Retool. Recommit. Now and All School Year—Part 2.

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