Teacher resilience: Conceived, perceived or lived in?

Year: 2019

Author: Boon, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Schools and classrooms in Australia are places where work related conditions drive the mass exodus of teachers in their first five years of service. These include rigid curricula, restricted pedagogies, high administrative workloads, student misbehavior and parental abuse. To stem this teacher exodus scholars advocate fostering teacher resilience. Resilience is conceivedacross a number of disciplines as a characteristic or result that is developed by processes that foster or promote it. It is the ability of a person to deal with unique stressors, acting as a shield, or buffer, which moderates the outcome to ensure negligible negative consequences. Resilience is considered necessary to allow the affected individual to return to ‘normal’ within the shortest possible time. The capacity to return to a former healthy state after a stressor, or to bounce back, or alternatively to bounce forward to a state of adaptation to the stressor is considered a vital characteristic to thrive in teaching in 21st century. Much research has investigated how resilience is perceivedby graduating and early career teachers, by teachers in rural contexts and in a range of specialist positions. Findings include individual and environmental factors which support resilience and its development. They comprise administrative support, support of mentors, peers, family and friends. Nevertheless, we do not know what constitutes teachers’ lived-inresilience. We need to examine the actual and lived-in resilience of those teachers who, having remained in the profession for many years, continue to maintain stress-free mental and physical health, a more accurate reflection of resilience, while continuing to perform their professional duties with zeal and excellence. Also, more critically, we need to study the individuals who have exited the profession to accurately assess why they left. Was it because of low resilience, as reflected by mental and physical health attributes, or because they were resistant and resilient to impositions of an external set of factors underpinning a system that they wanted to change? Are we making the mistake of equating teacher resilience as it is currently conceived with acceptance of the conditions in a system that should change? Using teacher resilience as it is conceived to maintain the status quo of the education system? Perhaps exiting the profession signals a strong, healthy, more resilient person who will not succumb to unacceptable demands in an education system which does not lead to personal wellbeing.