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Being Resilient

Mr Jones examines what resilience means to us in school


What does it mean to be resilient?

In Jane Austen’s Emma (which is without any doubt one of my favourite books), the central character, Emma Woodhouse, discovers that a man she thought was interested in marrying her is actually already secretly married to someone else. In the world of Jane Austen this is a disaster of epic proportions. Yet Emma, despite being shaken and perturbed by this knowledge, says ‘I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.’ She is under tremendous stress, but she keeps it together and rides the storm. It is the type of reaction that the society she lived in would have expected and been very respectful of.

This may be an odd example to give when talking about resilience, but I think it is an appropriate one.

If you look up the definition of the noun 'resilience', you will find it linked to the word ‘toughness’. I said in assemblies this week that such a word is problematic, although it is basically correct. Being ‘tough’ means different things to different people and to me, to be resilient is not just about being ‘tough’, not when you are at school anyway. It is just as much about effectiveness as it is about toughness.

In the wider world, it often refers to our ability to recover from things (for example, in health matters, or in business); it can also refer to how well we adapt and change (e.g. managing injuries in a squad over a football season); and it can of course refer to our ability to deal with stress and trauma in different areas of our lives.

In school, it is all a part of what we refer to as our ‘character’. Ofsted mentions resilience as one of three things that constitute ‘good character’: resilience, independence and confidence.

To explore this further, let’s go back to Emma. When she learns that she will not get married to Frank Churchill after all and that he is actually married to Jane Fairfax, she is most definitely resilient. One could argue she is ‘tough’, but if you have ever read a Jane Austen novel, I don’t think the word ‘tough’ is one you would ever use to describe her characters. Yet, she is resilient, and it is precisely because she is independent and confident in herself that she is able to be so.

Therefore, the question is: how can we be resilient, confident and independent?

Well, in a school, on a daily basis, these are the things that I believe will help you achieve just that:

  • Try your hardest and accept that some things will not be as easy as others
  • Understand that when you work hard to understand something (when it ‘pushes’ you to the limit), it can help you remember it better in the end
  • Ask for guidance so you can succeed, not so you can pass on responsibility for the task
  • Listen to advice and think about what is said to you, then act on it
  • Try to understand what we did wrong so you can put it right


Really, this all boils down to having a really good attitude to learning. If we want to show true resilience, we must always try our best. This is not a case of ‘getting on with it’, but genuinely trying to be the best we can be so we can be proud of ourselves at the end of the day.

Good learners will often ask for help, and will search out good advice, but they are always looking to take the next step forward themselves. They aren’t waiting for a teacher to do it for them, or pretending to listen then doing the same thing they’ve always done. And good learners are good learners because they never stop learning, they are always trying to improve themselves, be it in class or in life. That is what makes them ‘tough’ and resilient.

Another thing Emma Woodhouse says is that ‘There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.’ Don’t be one of those people. Be resilient, independent and confident. And then you can be proud of what you achieve as a result.


NJ 06.03.20

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