Becoming Resilient

Callum Springall, 16th May 2019

David Gumbrell has just released his first book “Lift! Going up if teaching gets you down”, in it he looks at teacher wellbeing, offering practical advice from his experience as a headteacher and education consultant. He is also the architect of the VbE (Values based Education) resilience survey, which has been developed with Pupil Asset.

As education shifts its focus from recruitment towards retention, David explains that a third ‘R’, resilience, is just as important. In this blog we'll take a look at 3 of the 12 criteria featured in the survey and their importance.

The first of the three criteria from the survey is Adaptability, being open-minded when the time for change comes, the important part is to know how to make the most of a given situation.

One crucial tactic that David points out is, where possible, to make change as manageable and steady as possible. Focus on the process without becoming fixated on the outgoing arrangements, essentially; embrace the new.

A consistent intent to learn and adapt is a valuable trait, as is dialogue and reasoned deliberation when a change of process or system, for example, is being decided upon. “Adaptability is important” he says, “it can be exciting to make changes, it can be invigorating to make changes. However, it can also be debilitating when too many changes are made, or even soul destroying when the changes are enforced, rather than discussed.”

The second of the criteria David identifies is Connection; a sense of cohesion that relies on there being an element of fellowship, knowing that there are other members of a team to offer support in moments of difficulty.

Resilience is not improved by one person going it alone, while there are aspects that can be unilateral, it all contributes to the overall resilience of the group. To borrow a phrase - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you focus the mind on what makes a group of people cohesive, their ability to work as a unit, there’s a fair chance that there is a sense of community. This changes how they go about their work, without cliques, where everyone is on the same wavelength.

It’s necessary, as David says, “to explore how connections are developing in school to avoid any ‘them-us’ situations, or to ensure that no-one feels isolated from being part of the team, or indeed connected to the school’s mission.”

Lastly, Empowerment. David believes that “Empowerment is also built on trust and the survey looks to gauge the perception of the staff in terms of the amount of trust that they feel that they are given as a professional in the classroom. Inadvertently, I believe that many schools are stifling the very staff that they need to perform at the highest levels. By holding the reins too tightly, the full power of the horse is not harnessed.”

This falls in line with the school of thought that removing the fear of failure leads to greater innovation, or at least experimentation to evolve current ways of working in the search for improvement. Which is something that can be only be done effectively by trusting the ability of staff, accepting mistakes or miscalculations as facts of life on the path to greater personal development.

Acknowledging, reflecting on, and developing these three criteria in us as individuals and across the workplace, will allow resilience to form and flourish. Which is why the resilience survey is a useful tool for a school’s leadership, to show staff the value they have, the level of trust provided to them as professionals, and to gain data on how best to maximise time and resources.


Find out more about the resilience survey, here.

Find out more about VbE, here.

Find out more about David's book, here.

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