Teachers Teaching Teachers #151 - 05.13.09 - Resiliency: What are we learning from our students? (Part 1)

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This is the first of a two-part podcast. Please listen to part two as well: Teachers Teaching Teachers #154 - Resiliency: What are we learning with our colleagues (Part 2 of 2) -06.03.09

Please consider this podcast to be an invitation, perhaps even a request for you to join us in the National Writing Project in this conversation about resiliency, writing, and teaching in these difficult times. We ask that you listen to this podcast, then add your own story (by posting a comment) about a student who exhibited the qualities of resiliency that we are seeking to nurture in our classrooms. What specific structures, decisions, books, approaches, projects or technologies have you learned to employ in your classroom to provide the "protective factors" that enable "at-risk" students to develop the resiliency they need to succeed?

Our guests on this podcast are:

  • DeWayne Dickens, Oklahoma State Writing Project
  • Suzanne Linebarger, Northern California Writing Project
  • Sandra Hogue, Louisville Writing Project
  • Irina McGrath, Louisville Writing Project
  • Lynette Herring-Harris, Thinking Partner for Rural Sites Network
  • Vanessa Brown, Thinking Partner for the Urban Sites Network, Philadelphia Writing Project

Resiliency theories have been shared for over a decade. These teachers are just a few of the members of the National Writing Project's Urban and Rural Sites Networks, who have been discussing the implications of resiliency research for classroom practice. On this podcast you will hear what they see and do when stakes are high, supports are limited, and odds are tough—and kids rise above it all.

  • DeWayne tells us about a woman in her late-30's who has failed Composition II three times, but is not giving up.
  • Suzanne describes Jermaine, the Mayor of Liondot Avenue, and a video project that draws him into school.
  • Sandra relates a story about six-year-old "Richard" who had been removed from his home and placed with his aunt, but who finds himself in literature.
  • Irina tells us about her work with English Language Learners, her Spanish-speaking students who found community by telling their stories in Spanish.
  • Lynette talks about a letter she wrote to her students with a quarter for a phone call. Many of her rural students used these quarters, connecting with a teacher who cared. They were kids who had the odds against them, but they found success.

This podcast is the first of a special two-part Teachers Teaching Teachers sponsored by the Urban Sites Network and Rural Sites Network of the National Writing Project. The next webcast will be on Wednesday June 3, 2009 right here at EdTechTalk at 9:00pm Eastern / 6:00pm Pacific USA Wednesday / 01:00 UTC Thursdays World Times.

After the webcast, DeWayne sent around a statement by a student that represents his thinking on resilience: "Overall, I feel as though I have accomplished the impossible. I has not been easy, nor has it been without failure, but it has been the hardships that have made the successes not only more important but much more meaningful."

Another example from DeWayne:

A student from this semester with visual impairment represents the resilience needed to make it through school. Some days he was angry. Some days he seemed lost because he could not see the white board, the classroom text books, or the computer screens. He had to learn how to make requests of staff, faculty, and students--in a mature and respectful manner that placed people in a mode of wanting to help him. At the beginning of the semester, most comments were angry and forceful. Toward the end of the semester, the comments shifted to engaging others in helping him solve his problems by his suggesting possible alternate ways for others to provide him work. He had moved to appreciating his academic skills and his need to master even subjects he detested. This young father became an agent in his learning, not just a bystander hoping to gather some crumbs from what others distributed at will. I call him my "Seeing Better Now" student.

Suzanne wanted to add to the conversation that she found the webcast to be "inspirational...much needed right now!" She continues, "I've been thinking about the development of the resiliency research. It began, I believe with Emmy Werner's work in Kauai. Bonnie Benard built on that work, and later researchers like Tim Burns and Nan Henderson built on Benard's work. My husband did his doctoral work by creating a sort of backward resilience study with students in a small rural high school who had been in the community since kindergarten."

Suzanne also points us to what might be next:

I'm wondering if there's a place for new thinking... where to from here... in our next conversation [June 3]. Is there a place for us to continue the work? Dewayne's study of persistance is powerful, as is thinking about the far reaching results of Kentucky's professional learning community. Around here [Northern California], many of our schools used to use Dorothy Rich's book MegaSkils to foster resiliency, but shifted to a weekly list of character traits, which everyone is finding not nearly as effective as people had hoped. This is certainly a perfect time to revisit resiliency. New applications...New ideas...California teachers for sure are hungry for any hopeful thinking!

Finally, Suzanne point us to an article, "Fostering Resiliency in Kids," Bonnie Benard, Educational Leadership Vol. 51, Number 3 November 1993. Other resources for Benard's work can be found at this National Writing Project resource: The Importance of Resiliency in Learning and Writing, by Art Peterson.

It's probably evident that this is an ongoing conversation between theory and practice. We would love to include your story of what you have learned from your resilient students. How has working with students such as the ones in this podcast transformed your teaching? We would be pleased if you would take the time to describe the students in your classroom by leaving a comment.

And, of course, please join us again on Wednesday June 3, 2009 right here at EdTechTalk at 9:00pm Eastern / 6:00pm Pacific USA Wednesday / 01:00 UTC Thursdays World Times.


Click Read more to see a transcript of a chat that was happening during the webcast.


20:30:23 Chris: hello vanessa!
20:30:33 Chris: hello hsitler!
20:35:42 vanessa: Hi everyone
20:40:17 Chris: Susan just told me that she is calling everyone in 4 minutes
20:40:30 Chris: @sound good vanessa?
20:40:50 Chris: @vanessa oops, I think this is how I write to you, Vanessa
20:45:43 Chris: Here is a link to a little information about NWP special-focus networks -- http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/doc/programs/sfn.csp
20:47:09 Chris: Rural Sites Network -- http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/programs/rsn
20:47:26 Chris: Urban Sites Network -- http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/programs/usn
20:49:52 Chris: Vanessa ... just fyi it's a little tricky to cut and paste here sometimes.
20:50:40 Chris: I was just testing the way that Paul suggested and it worked for me. So I'm happy to post links as needed if you would like me to do that.
20:51:00 SusanEttenheim: hi everyone!
20:51:11 Chris: Hi Susan!
20:52:58 SusanEttenheim: sometimes it works to highlight the text and drag it into this place
20:53:22 SusanEttenheim: hi elyseea welcome!
20:56:23 Chris: are we streaming yet?
20:56:31 Chris: just want to make sure I'm on the right stream
20:57:36 SusanEttenheim: yes we have just started streaming so you should all be hearing us soon!
20:58:04 SusanEttenheim: chris can you hear us now?
20:58:10 SusanEttenheim: we are on edtechtalk A
20:58:42 Chris: I can hear!
20:59:43 Lynette: Hi Chris
20:59:47 ElyseEA: Hi everyone
20:59:58 Lynette: Hi
21:00:05 DewayneTUL: Hello all.
21:00:11 SusanEttenheim: hi dewayne
21:00:12 vanessa: Hi Elyse and Helen
21:00:59 SusanEttenheim: hi everyone welcome to tonight's conversation!
21:01:03 hsitler: Hi Vanessa.
21:01:32 ElyseEA: Great -- some of us can pick up Qs in the chat room about NWP so the speakers don't have to worry too much.
21:01:42 SusanEttenheim: everyone - where and what do you teach?
21:02:04 SusanEttenheim: I am at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in NYC
21:02:21 SusanEttenheim: taking care of our library, technology and teaching elective classes
21:02:40 SusanEttenheim: what do you do and where? :)
21:02:48 DewayneTUL: Tulsa Community College (Tulsa, OK) with developmental English
21:03:07 SusanEttenheim: welcome dewayne
21:03:21 DewayneTUL: Thanks Susan
21:04:08 SusanEttenheim: hi cstasang welcome where and what do you teach?
21:04:18 SusanEttenheim: Hi pattip welcome! where and what do you teach?
21:04:55 paulepstein: Ruffner Elementary School, Charleston, WV  Reading/Technology (also involved with NWP Rural Sites Network)
21:05:04 vanessa: I am a Director of the Philadelphia Writing Project along with Kathy Schultz and I work part-time as a Program Associate for the National Writing Project. One of the things I do in that role is serve as a Thinking Partner for the Urban Sites Network. I am a former high school teacher in Philadelphia, PA.
21:05:11 SusanEttenheim: great! so glad you're here paul and vanessa!
21:05:42 paulepstein: thanks, Susan
21:05:58 Pattip: Akron, Ohio - I work at the district level with a number of different districts
21:06:22 SusanEttenheim: welcome pattip - have you joined us before?
21:07:08 Pattip: I usually listen to the podcast so it's the first time I'm here lie
21:07:12 Pattip: oops, live
21:07:37 SusanEttenheim: great! so glad you're here pattip! do you use skype?
21:07:44 hsitler: Helen Sitler from Southcentral Pennsylvania Writing Project at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). I teach numerous writing courses; my favorite is Basic Writing. I also work with English Education preservice teachers.
21:07:55 ElyseEA: Hi Pattip, I usually listen to podcasts too, but live is lots of fun.
21:08:09 Pattip: Don't have Skype on this computer
21:08:20 SusanEttenheim: my sister is at St. Johns University and works with writing
21:08:31 DewayneTUL: It sounds like Helen and I teach similar courses.
21:08:51 SusanEttenheim: pattip well, next time use the computer or get skype on this one and I can add you into the conversation live!
21:09:25 Pattip: thanks for the invite!
21:09:25 SusanEttenheim: Patti are you part of a writing project?
21:10:40 SusanEttenheim: paulepstein have you met our guests?
21:11:24 Lynette: Hi Paul, glad to "see" you.
21:11:58 Paul Allison: http://www.wested.org/cs/we/view/rs/712
21:12:08 paulepstein: I was listening intently, that was a great overview, Lynette.
21:12:29 SusanEttenheim: hi lorna welcome!
21:12:46 Lorna: Hi Susan and all
21:13:07 hsitler: OK. this is a really dumb question, but here it is. I've not done this before. Should I be seeing some kind of video picture? or just hearing the voices?
21:13:22 SusanEttenheim: lorna - please introduce yourself! where and what do you teach? we have a lot of new people tonight joining us!
21:13:23 Paul Allison: http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/2808
21:13:30 ElyseEA: Hi Helen, You'll just be listening to voices like on radio.
21:13:35 SusanEttenheim: hsitler - we do just audio
21:13:58 vanessa: G-R-E-A-T Job, Lynette. Very thorough and clear. Thank you for taking on that job to explain why this topic is of such importance to both urban and rural communities and writing projects
21:14:08 SusanEttenheim: lol do you want video at the end of a long school day? I don't! ;)
21:14:39 hsitler: Yes, Lynnette, a wonderful overview.
21:14:41 Lorna: Hi Susan - I am a parent involvment facilitator in St. Catharines Ontario
21:15:13 SusanEttenheim: welcome lorna - we have educators from oklahoma to california with us!
21:15:28 SusanEttenheim: so glad you can join us tonight
21:15:30 vanessa: Lorna, I woulod love to hear about your work in Canada.
21:15:52 Lorna: http://ourschool.ca
21:16:07 SusanEttenheim: allergies in NYC are Terrible this week! How is it in your area in Canada?
21:16:26 Lorna: terrible in NIagara - we are a fruit belt
21:16:49 SusanEttenheim: it looked like 30% of our school was crying all day!
21:17:09 SusanEttenheim: hi htillberg welcome! where and what do you teach?
21:17:31 htillberg: Hi Susan. I'm in Baltimore MD. I'm actually an instructional designer
21:17:59 SusanEttenheim: what does an instructional designer do? and for what age students?
21:18:18 SusanEttenheim: are you associated with a writing project too?
21:18:27 SusanEttenheim: welcome back elyseea
21:18:38 htillberg: As an instructional designer, i work with instructors who are designing courses. I generally work with adults.
21:18:51 ElyseEA: Thanks -- don't know how i left:)
21:18:52 SusanEttenheim: hi peggy! please jump in and introduce yourself!
21:18:55 htillberg: I am not associated with a writing project.
21:19:04 htillberg: I also work with teacher training.
21:19:16 DewayneTUL: Link to my workshop conference handouts and PowerPoint: http://sites.google.com/site/resiliencelearningjournals
21:19:16 paulepstein: I wonder if Suzanne Linebarger could comment on whether she sees any differences in approach to resiliency education for rural students than urban students
21:19:21 hsitler: As Dewayne was talking, I was thinking of my own basic writers. I agree that resilience helps students persist. I think the classroom atmosphere makes a huge difference.
21:19:39 PeggyG: Hi everyone-having some computer challenges tonight. I'm a retired elementary principal and university teacher education instructor in Phoenix AZ
21:19:46 SusanEttenheim: thank you dewayne!
21:20:10 DewayneTUL: you're most welcome
21:20:21 htillberg: Those handouts look great Dewayne.
21:20:50 DewayneTUL: thank you ... I hope they are helpful
21:20:59 PeggyG: What a fantastic resource DewayneTUL! Thanks!
21:21:05 SusanEttenheim: peggy - tonight - We will be talking about “Resiliency: What We are Learning from Our Students.”
21:21:14 PeggyG: thanks Susan!
21:21:37 SusanEttenheim: Find out what Writing Project Teachers from urban and rural schools are talking about. Learn how we are beginning to talk about our students’ special skills to remain resilient in the face of obstacles. Find out how Writing Project teachers perspectives on Resiliency get played out in what books we choose for our students, what technologies to use, and how to build curriculum that matches our resilient students’ skills and habits.
21:22:24 PeggyG: grandparents are a perfect way to do that!! :-)
21:22:46 Paul Allison: http://paulallison.tumblr.com/post/106916387/how-do-writing-project-teac...
21:23:01 hsitler: a 10-day Comp II course? Does that mean research writing? in 10 days??? EGAD
21:24:00 PeggyG: what a powerful story!!
21:24:28 SandraLWP: I'm still processing 10 days.
21:26:29 PeggyG: that's a wonderful strategy for helping them keep going! so positive and supportive!
21:27:05 SandraLWP: DeWayne your work reminds me of the works around nurturing resilience in educators.
21:27:26 DewayneTUL: Imagine the stress that they have.  If I don't expose the "elephant int he room," they will still have to deal with it--but in isolation
21:28:31 DewayneTUL: I like to make it a community concern that we can all help in figuring out ways of overcoming
21:28:59 PeggyG: http://www.timburnseducare.com/bookscdmanuals.html
21:29:19 SusanEttenheim: hi dawnknauf welcome! where and what do you teach?
21:29:34 SusanEttenheim: thank you peggy
21:30:19 PeggyG: that's a great example!
21:30:23 SusanEttenheim: I'd love to see the imovie!
21:30:32 hsitler: Suzanne, what a great idea!
21:30:33 PeggyG: me too Susan!
21:31:57 PeggyG: I think you gave the students a voice and something specific to talk/write about. So often they can't think of anything to write about and don't think what they have to say is worth writing.
21:33:36 vanessa: Me, too. I-movies servesuch a great purpose in classrooms where students need an alternative vehicle for expressing their unique stories. I love your example, Suzanne.
21:34:40 PeggyG: http://www.wested.org/cs/we/view/rs/712  Bonnie Benard's book-Resiliency: What We Have Learned
21:34:51 SusanEttenheim: hi matt - welcome! please introduce yourself!
21:35:00 hsitler: Oh, no. The voice portion just cut out on my computer.
21:35:19 hsitler: It's back!
21:35:30 PeggyG: whew!
21:35:34 vanessa: Whew! Great.
21:35:41 SusanEttenheim: good! sometimes there are little "burps" online
21:35:45 matt montagne: sounds like carol dweck's work with her book "Mindset" which encourages us to help create growth mindsets vs. fixed mindsets
21:36:04 ElyseEA: There was a reference to 'protective factors'.  Can we hear more about that -- it seems to point to particular strengths and dispositions we want to foster.
21:36:40 hsitler: Yes, Lynnette said something about teachers' being able to serve as a protective factor.
21:37:17 hsitler: Is anyone else getting classical music rather than the conversation?
21:37:30 htillberg: there is audio?
21:37:36 vanessa: No music, here. What's playing?
21:37:55 PeggyG: @hsitler-no but if you're listening in iTunes it may have gone onto the next tune. Go back and select EdTechTalk stream :-)
21:38:20 hsitler: Beethoven's 5th. It's beautiful, but.  OK. I am listening to I-Tunes. Will try Ed Tech again.
21:38:30 PeggyG: sometimes when your stream stops briefly iTunes moves on to the next song
21:38:52 hsitler: That was it. THANKS. Drat. I  missed good stuff.
21:38:57 ElyseEA: @matt: Yes, it is much about changing our mindsets to not assume that the 'risk factors' that were at one point much discussed in policy presume the whole of a person.  The human capacity to overcome is, essentially, resiliency.  So it's much about 'our' not giving up.
21:39:01 SusanEttenheim: is it ok now hsistler?
21:39:04 SusanEttenheim:  oh good
21:39:14 Chris: http://www.amazon.com/Our-Gracie-Aunt-Jacqueline-Woodson/dp/0786806206
21:39:20 PeggyG: that has happened to me before and I couldn't figure out why I was hearing Christmas music :-)
21:41:37 ElyseEA: Several have mentioned the importance of literature -- which I can imagine is critical.  It makes an argument for needing a rich library and plenty of opportunities for choice; also importance of quality children's and adolescent literature.
21:42:15 PeggyG: that is a great observation ElyseEA
21:43:44 PeggyG: these stories are so inspiring!
21:44:12 SandraLWP: I have a list of what I call Just Like Me or Close to Home texts that cover a range of hard stories but stories that are real for many of our kiddos.
21:44:39 Chris: I think that woudl be a wonderful list to share, Sandra.
21:44:41 ElyseEA: The list sounds very helpful.
21:45:09 SandraLWP: I'm not sure how to post but will make sure it is posted when this is published.
21:45:19 PeggyG: great concept! hungry for hope!
21:46:32 ElyseEA: I'm sure there's a way to share it here, but also if you want to post it into the NWP Book Group Ning in the adolescent literature group, that would be great.  www.nwpbookgroup.ning.com
21:47:44 hsitler: I love the idea of "hungry for hope," too. On our campus we've recently talked about the effects of economic stresses on our students.
21:48:21 PeggyG: I got an error message for the ning-can you repost it?
21:48:26 vanessa: Sandra, I wish you would also attach it to a message on the Rural Sits Discussion Forum and the Urban Sites Discussion Forum. Irina can help you do it. What a great resource it would be.
21:48:44 ElyseEA: Current economic situation and trauma for many families means this is a time to think in a disciplined way about this -- and with families because the family is also experiencing trauma
21:48:58 SandraLWP: Sure.  With Irina's help, I'll make it happen.
21:49:13 hsitler: Aha - another idea that is very, very often overlooked. TEACHERS need support as they become firstline support for their students.
21:49:13 ElyseEA: Sorry... www.nwpbookgroups.ning.com   needs the 's'
21:50:02 PeggyG: absolutely!! the hope factor applies to teachers as well as kids :-)
21:52:33 hsitler: How schools need to change. I can't speak for K-12, but at universities we're under intense pressure to graduate students in 4 years. It's totally unrealistic for any number of reasons--change of majors, need to work 30 hours per week + attend classes, etc. Still, financial aid is predicated on 4 years, maybe 5. Statistics about graduation rates look bad when it takes someone 5 years. It's a system that sets itself up for failure.
21:54:01 PeggyG: that is so true hsitler! the world has changed for university students!
21:54:26 ElyseEA: I think that the arts and the extra-curricular programs that support students in setting engaging personal goals and working to master something can do a lot toward building resiliency.  Sports too.
21:54:53 PeggyG: gee--don't think any of these skills are assessed on the standardized tests!
21:54:59 DewayneTUL: in community colleges, we have open enrollment .. the presumption that someone has a goal of graduating is often an error.  Choosing a major has a false presumption that the student is not just trying out something to figure out who he or she really is
21:55:08 hsitler: Suzanne has just answered another question I've ben thinking about--whether focus on testing has pulled away from curriculum elements that foster resilience. This is all quite consonant with research on recovering from trauma.
21:57:30 ElyseEA: Yes, what I'm hearing is a focus that a faculty can take to study as a collective that can influence their interactions with students in a particular direction.  The experience of a collective focus on strengthening of the self in this way could provide for a deeply sustaining institution.
21:59:31 SandraLWP: What an amazing story.
22:00:18 vanessa: This speaks to another of the protective factors that Benard and others discuss and that is, the presence of caring others in the lives of children. If whole schools and other institutions were intentional about standing firm for children.
22:00:19 hsitler: Ah - we CANNOT afford to take our focus off our students. An excellent closing line.
22:00:28 htillberg: very nice.
22:00:57 vanessa: Irina, I hit send, too quick. But you were reading my mind. Thanks.
22:01:13 ElyseEA: Yes, the very old precept of teaching the person and not the test or the curriculum.  Still holds.
22:01:26 PeggyG: she is so articulate and persuasive and passionate! very inspiring!
22:02:16 ElyseEA: I think we have some resources at www.nwp.org too.
22:03:51 PeggyG: http://www.wested.org/cs/we/view/rs/93 I think that's the link for download Fostering Resiliency in Kids
22:04:51 Chris: thank you!
22:04:52 htillberg: Thank you
22:04:53 PeggyG: thank you all!
22:05:03 SusanEttenheim: good night all! see you next week


Resilient Child and his Song

My story: Last year, I had a child with pretty severe Asperger's Syndrom -- very disconnected from other kids; writing was difficult for him to even get started and stilted when completed; and there were other health issues, too. But one thing made the two of us connect: we loved music. He would hum songs all day and we could "talk" about writing songs and listening to music. I loved that passion about him and late in the year, he came up to me with some lyrics that he had written. I thought they were a wonderful window into who he was inside but the rest of us rarely got a glimpse of. So, I took those lyrics home and put them to music (I didn't tell him), recorded a simple version of the song, burned it onto a CD and presented to him. We listened to the song together -- he and I standing just a foot apart. When it was over, he looked me right in the eye (which did not happen often) and thanked me. I thought he might cry, but he didn't. I still remember that look and hope that music is still a part of his life. It showed me not only the power of music to connect but also his own resiliency to keep being creative even when it was most difficult for him. Here is his song: http://www.box.net/shared/static/apfb0ydk4k.mp3 Kevin Hodgson Western Massachusetts Writing Project